The licensing of NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s (AFRC) Sense-and-Avoid System with ADS-B Avionics by Vigilant Aerospace Systems represents a major step forward in bringing unmanned aerial systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS).
The technology is a combination of hardware and software that provides crucial capabilities previously nonexistent for UAS. These capabilities include a unique collision-avoidance algorithm that keeps the aircraft on a “well-clear” path and cutting-edge communications that broadcast and receive aircraft situational information.These features, combined with a sophisticated display, dramatically increase safety for the UAS itself, other aircraft in the surrounding airspace, and persons and property on the ground.
AFRC engineers worked diligently to prepare the technology for commercialization. Then, thanks to the work of the AFRC Technology Transfer Office (TTO) via several mechanisms, this transformative innovation for UAS was licensed by Oklahoma-based startup Vigilant Aerospace Systems. The TTO developed effective collateral that enabled marketing to begin while intellectual property protection was still being secured. In addition, the technology’s selection as the winner of an FLC Far West Region award was also parlayed into a marketing opportunity with Vigilant Airspace.
Vigilant Aerospace was formed specifically to commercialize AFRC’s technology through funding from Cimarron Capital Partners, which learned of the technology at the FLC Far West Region’s awards ceremony. Once the license was executed, Vigilant Aerospace pursued commercialization through focused product development, integrating AFRC’s technology into its FlightHorizon™ avionics platform.
The TTO developed effective collateral that enabled marketing to begin while intellectual property protection was still being secured.
The company is now developing partnerships with numerous commercial UAS operations companies and is in talks to deploy the technology with companies that manage major U.S. infrastructure. This commercialization success is yielding safer air traffic control, helping to ensure approval of UAS in the NAS; UAS expansion into
new scientific, government, commercial, and civilian applications that benefit the public; and economic growth as Vigilant Aerospace adds jobs to its payroll as new markets develop.
This technology transfer success aligns with NASA’s mission to benefit aviation, which will be transformed as this autonomous UAS system provides improvements in safety, efficiency, and flexibility of operations, thereby increasing the capacity, robustness, and flexibility of the NAS.