Derek Abramson and Robert Jensen install one of two wings on the Hybrid Quadrotor 90C (HQ-90) at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Dale Reed Subscale Flight Research Lab in California on Oct. 1, 2020. This vertical lift and transition remotely piloted aircraft arrived in pieces packed in crates for the Resilient Autonomy project to test software in flight.
Autonomous aircraft systems have the potential to save lives, and NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Resilient Autonomy project is at the forefront of development. These advanced software systems are preventing air-to-ground collisions in piloted aircraft, and the project is now focusing on developments to prevent aircraft from colliding with other aircraft in the air.
The project is a joint collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense with numerous Department of Defense services and commands to create new autonomous technology and inform FAA certification guidelines. The task is to test the maturity of technology and inform airworthiness requirements to enable future autonomy, such as link-less operations in an unpiloted aircraft, while at the same time providing enhanced automatic safety to modern piloted aircraft. The system that spans this wide range of autonomy is the Expandable Variable Autonomy Architecture (EVAA).
Mark Skoog, NASA Armstrong principal investigator for autonomy, is leading the project along with project manager Kia Miller and project chief engineer Nelson Brown. Skoog comes from more than 35 years of experience with autonomous systems including the F-16 Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS), which has saved the lives of 10 F-16 pilots, and one more pending review. The Auto GCAS system takes control of an aircraft from the pilot at the last possible moment to avoid an imminent ground collision. For this project, the team improved the algorithms of the F-16 GCAS and ACAS systems and rebranded to indicate an improved functionality.
The EVAA software prioritizes human safety over preventing damage to property, and preventing damage is prioritized over the completion of the mission by following a set of programed rules of behavior. These rules of behavior allow EVAA to better manage the mission intent of the flight while always maneuvering within the acceptable performance limits of the aircraft, much like how a pilot manages a safe flight. EVAA is primarily intended to be used on unpiloted vehicles, and in some circumstances, may allow damage or destruction of the UAS to avoid piloted aircraft. The process involves
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