Your run-of-the mill civilian drone probably has some sort of obstacle avoidance system, since this is the sort of thing drone tests and federal regulators make a big deal out of. They could avoid stationary or slow things like trees or cyclists.

But what about faster things? DARPA has been at the forefront of UAV tech, but how does it keep the airspace trouble-free?

Answer? Drone spidey-sense.

DARPA recently conducted tests of a new "sense-and-avoid" system that allows unmanned drones to detect aircraft even before they enter visual range.

The system, the size of a shoebox, uses an optical camera for detection, and also employs "passive ranging features." These features allow the UAV to predict whether any nearby aircraft will cross its flight path and recommend the best evasive action that complies with air safety regulations.

The work is part of a DARPA effort to create a low-cost, easily installed system to detect oncoming or crossing aircraft. The next phase is to make it even smaller and add new features, like the ability to detect aircraft below the horizon line.


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