New radar system supports unmanned aircraft


FORT HOOD, Texas – The Army installed its first Ground Based Sense and Avoid system radar on Dec. 15 at Fort Hood home to two MQ-1C Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System companies. Fort Hood is one of five installations that have been identified to acquire the system.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Integration Concepts product directorate that manages the system, and is part of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office, joined the Directorate of Aviation Operations, Directorate of Public Works, Network Enterprise Center, and E and F Co 227th in installing the first of a set of radar procured by the Army for the purpose of providing a “Sense and Avoid” capability to UAS at the installation.

“We are very excited to finally see this come to fruition,” said Viva Kelley, product director for USAIC. “The whole team has been working very hard on this program since its inception. I am very proud of my team’s accomplishments, and in the end, it will provide the Army with a safer and more effective way with which to conduct UAS training and testing.”

Currently, the Army uses visual observers, on the ground or in a chase plane, to provide the necessary “See and Avoid” function required by Federal Regulation (14 CFR 91.113). The Army-developed GBSAA will initially support UAS transiting from airfields in the NAS to restricted areas where training and testing can occur.

The system consists of numerous complex subsystems, including multiple 3-D radar, data fusion, tracker, classifier, separation algorithms, displays and more, that have been designed and developed for the sole function of SAA. Without a pilot on board, UAS do not have the ability to safely navigate in airspace with other traffic, especially aircraft that are not transponding or otherwise cooperating in the airspace system.

The GBSAA system was designed to be compatible with any UAS, in any airspace and under any operational need. The goal is to open up necessary airspace to UAS and allow them to fly as safely as manned aircraft can. While the first steps will be transits from airfields to restricted areas, operations in Military Operating Areas are in the near future.

“The GBSAA system has exceeded all of its performance requirements, from the test bed to the full system concept demonstrations and follow on testing,” said Col. Courtney Cote, project manager for UAS. “This system provides the alternate means of compliance with FAA regulatory requirements that will enable our Army to perform the critical mission training they need.”

Fort Hood is the first site to receive the system and will have hardware installed in mid-December. The hardware will continue to collect data for a safety analysis and report before becoming fully operational in 2015. Collecting and analyzing the data will allow operators to see and verify if the radar is seeing everything and give the safety team a good understanding of the airspace traffic.

Site preparations have already begun at the second site to be fielded the GBSAA. The program is on cost and on schedule to fully field the first unit before the end of fiscal 2015.