An examination of two non-cooperative detect and avoid well clear definitions

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Conference Proceeding

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NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration into the National Airspace System (UAS in the NAS) project examines the technical barriers associated with the operation of UAS in civil airspace. The present study explored the differential effects of two candidate noncooperative Detect-and-Avoid Well Clear (DWC) definitions on pilot and system performance in a human-in-the-loop simulation. Active-duty UAS pilots were recruited to maintain DWC against scripted conflicts with non-cooperative intruders using a low size, weight, and power (SWaP) radar declaration range of 3.5 nautical miles (nmi). Objective performance indicated that pilots could consistently maintain DWC against non-cooperative intruders with either DWC candidate, with negligible differences in response times and separation performance against caution and warning-level threats. While losses of DWC were avoided at rates comparable to Phase 1 findings, pilots uploaded their responses to caution-level alerts over 5 seconds faster in the current setup relative to Phase 1. Encounters with faster closure rates were susceptible to shortened caution-level alert durations, especially when employing the DWC criterion with the additional ‘Tau’ (temporal) component. Consequently, caution-level threats frequently elevated to warning-level status (nearly twice as often with the Tau candidate). The variable caution alert durations appeared to impact pilots’ coordination with air traffic control (ATC), as ATC approval rates were lower with the ‘Tau’ and ‘Disc’ candidates relative to Phase 1 research. Ultimately, the increased alerting time enabled by the Disc candidate deemed it more suitable for any reductions to the assumed radar declaration range requirement, which was re-evaluated in a follow-on study. Findings from this study will inform Phase 2 Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) development for UAS with alternative surveillance equipment and performance capabilities.


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