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UND tests cockpit software to avoid airborne conflicts


A novel set of software algorithms is giving a University of North Dakota test plane the ability to automatically detect airborne traffic conflicts and take evasive action. The project, using a Cirrus SR22 with a safety pilot on board, has NASA backing and could find its way into cockpits in the coming years. The system uses ADS-B signals to determine the position and closure rate of nearby aircraft. While that data is accurate, it requires that both planes be equipped with ADS-B transponders and other equipment, something that few general aviation aircraft have installed so far. During dozens of tests, UND used a manned Cessna Skyhawk as the intruder aircraft. Each time, the software, driving the Cirrus’ autopilot and a rudimentary autothrottle, successfully made an evasive maneuver to avoid the collision. While the system needs more refining before it’s ready for the market, researchers said it could be key in letting unmanned planes mix with manned aircraft in the National Airspace System.