IAI, Honeywell to Develop Sense-and-Avoid Capability for Heron UAS

The joint project will seek improved situational awareness through the tracking of other nearby aircraft, allowing the UAS collision avoidance maneuvering and suggest alternate flight maneuvers, resulting in a safer airspace

Heron-1 (Photo: IAI)

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Honeywell will jointly develop a sense-and-avoid (SAA) capability for IAI's Heron family of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). Approved for funding from the Bi-national Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, the system will be demonstrated for the first time on the Heron medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS platform in 2018.

The BIRD Foundation was established by the United States and Israel governments in 1977 to stimulate promote and support industrial research and development of mutual benefit to both countries. BIRD selected the team following a competitive review process that evaluated projects from many companies.

The joint project will provide an SAA capability on a Heron MALE The system concept includes Honeywell-developed software, algorithms, hardware and the fusion of inputs from various sensors embedded in a single prototype box or line-replaceable unit (LRU) and IAI's separation and collision avoidance maneuvering logic and Ground Control Station (GCS) pilot interface. The LRU will be flight tested onboard IAI's Heron UAV for the first time through the BIRD program. It will show improved situational awareness through the tracking of other nearby aircraft, allowing the UAS collision avoidance maneuvering and suggest alternate flight maneuvers, resulting in a safer airspace.

The demonstrations and flight tests planned for mid-2018 will be conducted on the IAI Heron 1 UAS. The development work will be executed in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Minneapolis; and Redmond, Washington, as well as in Tel Aviv, Israel. Flight testing will take place in Israeli airspace. Both companies plan for the full sense-and-avoid solution to be integrated into the Heron family of MALE UAS. In the near term, the work will set the foundation for safe operation and integration of unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace and will contribute to policies and procedures allowing for certification of avionics and platform systems.

With the introduction of UASs in the national airspace, Honeywell and IAI recognized the need for making the airspace safer. Honeywell’s development of a common sense-and-avoid system started years ago to meet this anticipated need, and the concept continues to be refined through flight test demonstrations.

“Developing a sense-and-avoid system for our Heron UAS is a significant step forward in integrating MALE UASs into civilian airspace,” said Joseph Weiss, president and CEO, Israel Aerospace Industries. "We’re excited to work with Honeywell, a leading company in avionics and safety systems, and view this effort as the first step in a series of cooperative efforts. Integrating sense-and-avoid capabilities into UASs can offer great potential and market growth, specifically in commercial applications. Together our organizations will lead the way to resolve an issue that impacts the entire aviation industry,” added Weiss.

"Sense-and-avoid solutions do not currently exist for UASs to operate in a national civilian airspace. With more manned and unmanned vehicles entering that airspace, the need for sense-and-avoid grows," said Carey Smith, president, Defense and Space, Honeywell Aerospace. "With decades of experience providing the aerospace industry with countless products focused on safety, Honeywell will leverage this and government agencies to work with IAI and provide a significant step forward in next-generation avionics solutions that address the need for sense-and-avoid,” said Smith.

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