Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Vigilant Aerospace Systems have conducted a demonstration flight utilising OSU’s 13-mile BVLOS corridor east of Stillwater, Oklahoma.
The demonstration was used to evaluate BVLOS capabilities and to demonstrate Vigilant’s latest FlightHorizon software which provided airspace situational awareness throughout the flight.
The flight was the first full exercise of the FAA-authorized 13-mile unmanned aircraft system (UAS) flight corridor located in central Oklahoma, and was a major field test for FlightHorizon 2, the latest version of Vigilant Aerospace’s unmanned traffic management and active detect-and-avoid (aDAA) system.
The completely autonomous flight was over 18-miles long , from OSU’s Center for Forensics Explosives range near Pawnee to an autonomous landing at OSU’s Unmanned Aircraft Flight Station in Glencoe.
Kraettli L. Epperson, CEO of Vigilant Aerospace, said: “The unmanned aircraft industry’s top needs continue to be autonomous safety systems, on-board detect-and-avoid solutions and better unmanned traffic management.
“This flight allowed us to make progress on all three by demonstrating our system’s capabilities over a much longer duration and greater distances while providing active alerting and airspace visualization to the pilot and observers.
“These demonstration flights are critical milestones in the development of the industry and our partnership with OSU provides our company access to some of the top students, researchers and facilities in the US.”
Jamey Jacob, director of the OSU Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI), added: “This flight and the team of OSU research engineers and students and Vigilant Aerospace staff who conducted it represent a forward-looking approach to utilizing public-private partnerships to rapidly advance the technology and bring innovations to market.”
The results from the flight provided a proof of concept for Vigilant’s Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) capabilities currently in research and development, and will provide the basis for initial deployment of UTM capabilities utilising FlightHorizon.
The analysis of results from the demonstrations will also provide an understanding of the capabilities of autonomous UAS operations and provide data necessary for additional use cases.
The flight is the first in a new series that will be testing radar integration, ground-based and on-board autonomous detect-and-avoid capabilities, remote ID solutions and UTM processes utilizing FlightHorizon.
It was conducted with a twin-motor UAS operating below 400 feet AGL and was conducted under an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA) with a visual observer.
The COA, released by the FAA in December 2018, allows for the waiving of rules requiring drone pilots to keep their aircraft continuously in line-of-sight and also provides additional operating altitude.
The COA allows OSU and commercial research and development partners like Vigilant Aerospace to pioneer new unmanned flight technologies, safety systems and processes to advance the state of the UAS industry.
Using it’s FlightHorizon 2 software, Vigilant Aerospace provided airspace situational awareness, detect-and-avoid and air traffic visualization for the flight.
The software tracked dozens of manned aircraft across central Oklahoma during the flight and provided real-time alerting to the visual observer and pilot-in-command.