Before unpiloted or remotely piloted aircraft can safely operate in the same airspace as other, piloted aircraft, robotic aircraft and their operators will need to demonstrate a high level of operational robustness and the ability to “sense and avoid” other air traffic. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Operations Challenge (UAS AOC) is focused on developing some of the key technologies that will make UAS integration into the National Airspace System possible.
This competition is being formulated as part of NASA’s Centennial Challenge Program, which is designed to foster individual, academic, and private sector innovation to solve difficult problems that are important to NASA and the nation. This Centennial Challenge will be conducted in two parts: Phase 1 of the Challenge is scheduled to be held in Spring, 2014 and Phase 2 of the Challenge will be held approximately one year after Phase 1 has been successfully completed.
Phase 1 of the Challenge focuses on important aspects of safe airspace operations, robustness to system failures, and seeks to encourage competitors to get an early start on developing some of the skills critical to Phase 2. Specific skills that Phase 1 competitors will need to demonstrate include:
- Safe Airspace Operations:
- Separation Assurance using ADS-B
- 4 Dimensional Trajectories
- Ground Control Operations
- Robustness to System Failures:
- Lost Link
- GPS Unavailable
- GPS Unreliable
- Preparation for Phase 2 Competition:
- Uncooperative Air Traffic Detection
There are other technical challenges that must be solved to enable the integration of UAS in the NAS, but a competitor that successfully demonstrates the skills required in Phase 1 will be able to field a robust UAS that is significantly closer to the goals of UAS-NAS integration embodied in theNextGen Airspace Concept. The total prize money available for Phase 1 of the competition is $500,000.