ADS-B tracking system demonstrated in UAV flight test
Sagetech has announced that a joint flight demonstration has been carried out between manned aircraft and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with the FAA NextGen Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system. The demonstration could have important implications for the future of manned/unmanned operations outside US restricted airspace.
During the 24 October demonstration over McMillan Airfield in Camp Roberts, Sagetech and UAV manufacturer Arcturus UAV simultaneously flew a manned Cirrus SR-22 and unmanned Arcturus T-20 in adjacent airspace while operators and the pilot used the ADS-B system to track one another's position and flight path in real time.
According to Sagetech, during the flight both aircraft used Sagetech XP transponders to broadcast ADS-B position messages. The Cirrus SR-22 pilot and UAV ground operators received those messages with Sagetech Clarity receivers, which relayed them via wi-fi to an iPad. Using an Electronic Flight Bag app like Hilton Software's popular WingX, the iPad clearly displayed the positions of both aircraft as they flew—each a named icon indicating its exact location, heading and altitude.
Currently, UAVs are not permitted to fly outside restricted airspace in the US, because their small size makes them invisible to pilots and virtually undetectable by radar. Sagetech believes that sharing the airspace would be beneficial for situations such as wilderness firefighting, where temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) prohibit most outside aircraft. Within that restricted space, UAVs equipped with ADS-B transponders could work alongside manned aircraft to monitor fire activity and manage firefighting strategies, with lower risk and at a lower cost than helicopters. Other potential manned/unmanned joint operations could also include disaster relief efforts and search-and-rescue operations.
Kelvin Scribner, the pilot of the Cirrus SR-22 and president of Sagetech Corp, said: ‘Even when I couldn't see the UAV visually from the cockpit, I could see it electronically on my iPad, including its heading. And it was right there on the aviation charting app I already use in flight, Hilton Software’s WingX.
‘It's really that simple. And that's the point—it's really that simple. We're demonstrating that the technology and the equipment are here now for joint manned/unmanned aircraft operations.’
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