Inside Unmanned Systems

AUG 2015

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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74 unmanned systems inside September/October 2015 AIR RESEARCH The team at the New Mexico test site recently completed the fi rst prototype fl ight with Vanilla Aircraft's VA001, an unmanned aerial system that's been in development for six years. The medium- altitude, long-endurance aircraft (MALE) is designed to fl y for up to 10 days, reducing operational costs for continual aerial coverage and enabling mid-size UAS to perform missions that were once beyond their capabilities. The team met all objectives during the February test, which was the fi rst of many. The New Mexico facility supplied the necessary hangar space and support. "This is a great success story," Brooks said. "They were ready to fl y this aircraft for the fi rst time and they chose New Mexico as the facility that provided the best chance for success. We provided full support, including air worthiness assessment, gaining FAA approval and, of course, fl ight operations. The fl ight control and monitoring went off fabulously." First test fl ight for Vanilla Aircraft's VA001 for the testing, all from AeroVironment. Testing was performed in the desert. To determine how city light pollution affected the observers, they brought in artificial lights to simulate an urban area for the second phase of the research. "The light pollution didn't impact visual ob- servation as much as people thought it would," said Dolgov, who serves as the human factors lead in visual operations for the Center of Excel- lence. "They did just as well with the light pol- lution as they did without it, and just as well as they performed during the day." The recovery lights UAS use to land helped night observers keep better track of the systems in the dark, and also enabled them to better predict colli- sions—though this is the area observers struggled with most. To help, the researchers introduced "rings of safety": an air traffic alert zone, a resolu- tion advisory zone and a mid-air collision zone. "They had to estimate if the aircraft was going to enter the near mid-air collision zone, provide the time to the collision as well as instructions for the safest path out of there for the UAS," Dolgov said. "The UAS always stayed on its flight path. The intruder was always separated in vertical space from the UAS. There was never any real danger of a collision." Dolgov and other members of the ASSURE team will continue this research with a project set to start in October. They'll conduct an eth- nographic study of small UAS observers, visual operation training instructors and small UAS pilots. During this study they'll immerse them- selves in this group's culture and communities to see how they function. The research will break important new ground, Dolgov said. When small UAS observ- ers and pilots have been studied before, it's been through contrived scenarios. While that infor- mation is valuable, it doesn't give enough insight into what trainers and operators have to know to perform their jobs, and that's the information the FAA needs before it can finalize regulations. "Our goal is to go to different sites and talk to folks who have been going through the train- ing and determine what skills are essential for visual observers to have before they're certified by the FAA," Dolgov explained. " Pervasive is the word I would use. We're going to see unmanned technology ingrained into everything .˝ –Dallas Brooks, the center's director of UAS development

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