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India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is taking a significant step towards enhancing the safety and autonomy of its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Through its Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), DRDO has issued an “Expression of Interest” (EOI) inviting collaboration from reputed Indian industry partners.

The core objective of this project is to design and develop a “Sense and Avoid System” specifically for medium and high altitude long endurance UAVs. This system will be crucial for ensuring safe airspace integration by enabling these UAVs to detect and avoid potential collisions with other airborne objects.

The project, as outlined in the EOI, will be comprehensive and multi-phased. Collaboration between ADE and the selected industry partners will encompass various aspects:

  • Project Documentation: This includes generating crucial documents like the “Route to Certification,” which defines the roadmap for obtaining regulatory approvals, as well as system and sub-system level requirements and design documents.
  • Sub-system Development: The project involves the design and development of key sub-systems for the Sense and Avoid System, including:
    • Airborne Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar: This advanced radar technology will provide the UAV with real-time situational awareness, enabling detection of surrounding airspace.
    • Airborne Sense and Avoid Processor Sub-system: This “brain” of the system will analyze radar data and other inputs to determine potential collision threats and initiate evasive manoeuvres for the UAV.
    • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B): This technology will enable the UAV to “see and be seen” by other equipped aircraft, enhancing overall airspace awareness.
    • Associated Ground Displays: Ground control stations will be equipped with displays to provide operators with a clear picture of the surrounding airspace and the UAV’s actions.

The project will involve rigorous qualification testing of the newly developed sub-systems to ensure they meet stringent airborne safety standards. Following successful testing, these sub-systems will be seamlessly integrated with existing Traffic Collision Alert System (TCAS) and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems on the UAV.

The development of a robust Sense and Avoid System is a critical step forward for India’s UAV industry. By enabling safe integration of Medium/High Altitude Long Endurance UAVs into the airspace, this project will pave the way for wider deployment of these versatile platforms for various missions, including surveillance, reconnaissance, and logistics.

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