Avoiding collisions

The Smith Institute developed algorithms to help Thales design UAV control systems.

The problem

ASTRAEA is a pioneering £32 million aerospace programme which is addressing key technological and regulatory issues in order to open up non-segregated airspace to unmanned autonomous aircraft.

ASTRAEA is joint UK industrial and government initiative involving a consortium of major UK aerospace companies, government departments and regional development agencies working with many innovative small companies and leading academics.

The safe and routine operation of autonomous airborne systems promises to offer considerable public benefits, particularly in the areas of safety and security, ‘blue light’ and rescue services, logistics, environmental monitoring and transport management.

The solution

The Smith Institute worked closely with the ASTRAEA project team at Thales to develop algorithms for collision avoidance. A review of the published literature on collision avoidance systems was augmented by discussions with several leading academics. The limitations of existing approaches to collision avoidance in this application were highlighted and a novel approach was identified based on models developed initially for use in the finance industry. The new algorithms for collision avoidance were implemented by Thales and are performing as required.

The benefit

The ASTRAEA activity continues to move towards its goal in conjunction with the Regulatory Authorities, who provide valuable support and consultation in taking these technology capabilities forward.

The algorithms have proven to be exceptionally robust during testing in the Thales Systems Integration Laboratory, where they have been exercised against a number of avoidance scenarios along with new detection, fusion and processing components. These are key steps towards the team’s programme plan to migrate this capability onto trials platforms for real world avoidance testing using cooperating intruder types, as part of planned participation in a number of related activities.

Prof Simon Watts Scientific Director of Thales’ Aerospace Division