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19 Jan 18. NAVAIR Plans to Install ACAS Xu on MQ-4C Fleet. Northrop Grumman will prepare to modify the MQ-4C Triton unmanned air system with an emerging technology that can be used to help the maritime surveillance aircraft sense and avoid other objects in flight.
The US Naval Air Systems Command intends to award a contract to sole-source Northrop to execute a risk reduction phase of the new sense-and-avoid technology, the agency says in a 10 January acquisition notice.
The contract should smooth the process of integrating the new technology – an unmanned version of the Airborne Collision Avoidance System X (ACAS Xu) – at some point in the future, the notice says.
After completing the risk reduction phase, NAVAIR plans to award a contract to Northrop to complete an engineering change proposal on the MQ-4C that integrates the hardware and software for the ACAS Xu.
As it approaches the end of a long development phase, NAVAIR plans to initially deploy the MQ-4C with a due regard radar to help avoid other aircraft while flying through airspace. The MQ-4C’s role is to fly surveillance orbits above 50,000ft, scanning the oceans and seas for suspicious and hostile vessels. It will need to descend to lower altitudes to take a closer look at some targets, as well as to ascend and descend at the beginning and end of each mission.
The traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS II) has been mandated on manned transport aircraft in 2000 to automatically warn pilots of potential collision threats, but the system is not designed to use the satellite navigation systems mandated by the US Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen system.
The Lincoln Laboratory in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed ACAS X to work with the NextGen system as a replacement for TCAS II. The laboratory also is developing the ACAS Xu version for unmanned aircraft, such as MQ-4C. (Source: UAS VISION/Flightglobal)
19 Jan 18. Chinese University Flies a Swarm of Fixed-Wing Drones. According to an article published two days ago in the Chinese military’s official journal, a team of researchers from the Chinese military university National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) successfully tested, in early December, a swarm of several tens of fixed-wing drones.
The text has given little detail – it is only learned that the test had the objective of evaluating autonomous flight technologies in training, and the ability of the swarm to conduct a reconnaissance mission to the above a certain area.
The project and development work is led by Professor SHEN Lin Cheng (沈 林 成), PhD supervisor and Chair of the NUDT Institute of Artificial Intelligence Sciences.
“The team has been working for nine months on the preparation of this swarm test, sometimes we have to do a hundred test flights a day,” says the former director of the institute of electro-mechanical engineering and automation, “We have precise short, medium and long term objectives, which are consistent with those set by the government on the modernization of the Chinese armed forces by 2020, 2035 and 2050.”
Despite “rudimentary” testing site conditions, the NUDT research team of an average age of 30 years has achieved a breakthrough in the areas of parallel perception, behavioral intention prediction, and Autonomous flight control focused on the handling of random incidents, says the People’s Liberation Army Daily article.
Note that the same university team has already conducted another swarm trial in the month of October, but the number of drones was limited to only “a few,” according to another article published on the Chinese military website.
At least two other entities in China are currently working on drone swarm projects. In June this year, the Chinese electronic giant CETC performed a demonstration flight with 1