Hensoldt develops detect and avoid technology for Eurodrone MALE European project

Hensoldt is developing the Detect and Avoid (DAA) technology required for the European collaboration project, Eurodrone. The Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (MALE) is due to take off in 2029 and must be able to independently, detect the air traffic around it, and avoid other flying objects. The Eurodrone, will perform all tasks of airborne imaging and signal-gathering reconnaissance and surveillance.

According to the Hensoldt 2022 annual report, also reported by UAS Vision, Hensoldt is creating the technical prerequisites for integrating drones into the airspace of the future. The company’s DAA main radar uses the Active Electronically Scanning Array (AESA) technology, which covers a span of 220 degrees up to a distance of 20 kilometers. The technology combines ultra-high-resolution surveillance of the entire airspace with fast automatic detection and tracking of other airborne systems. In addition, it can sense the ground, thus improving navigation, and even be used as a landing aid. With additional features such as weather detection, it supports drone navigation through turbulence in the vicinity of storms.

Dietmar Klarer, Head of Novel Radar Systems and Concepts at Hensoldt, says: “Its scalability makes Hensoldt’s DAA radar suitable for small, civilian aircraft such as helicopters and unmanned aerial cabs as well as large military drones. In military use, it also offers increased resistance to jamming attempts. Thus, Hensoldt’s DAA radar replaces the pilot’s perception with a technical system that is far superior to the human eye – both in range and in accuracy and probability of detection.”

In cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Hensoldt has integrated its DAA radar into a research aircraft and has already tested it several times. Under the supervision of a safety pilot, it demonstrated its capabilities. The result: The DAA radar reliably detected other aircraft taking part in the test and successfully initiated evasive maneuvers. At a distance of up to 20 kilometers, it was able to successfully detect and track the aircraft, says the annual report.

As an integrated component, the DAA radar can be combined with other components of Hensoldt’s comprehensive DAA system: optical sensors, transponders, a collision avoidance system, and command and control data systems. All data is then merged in the DAA computer, providing an all-encompassing information base.

Hensoldt is also involved in the joint development of DAA systems in several national and European projects. Among others, Hensoldt provides the DAA radar for EUDAAS (European Detect and Avoid System) – a project to develop a European standard for detection and avoidance for safe use in large military remotely piloted air systems in European air traffic. The first flight tests are planned for 2024.

In addition to the DAA system, Hensoldt is developing sensor equipment that can be integrated into a pod to give the Eurodrone a signal reconnaissance capability. The contract to implement and test a demonstrator worth approximately 15 million euros was awarded by the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support at the end of 2022.

In addition, Hensoldt is involved in initiatives such as ACAS X (Airborne Collision Avoidance System) with the aim of designing and defining European standards for this technology and then bringing them into line with other international standards – in particular those of the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Next steps

Due to the growing demand for DAA systems, development of the next generation of technology is in full swing at Hensoldt. A new DAA system with a multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) radar is expected to provide 360-degree coverage when mounted in the nose of the aircraft and will also be able to detect obstacles in limited visibility and smaller drones. In military applications, it could additionally indicate enemy attacks. Significantly smaller than the current DAA radar, it can also be combined with a second, even smaller radar mounted on the side of an aircraft to provide additional coverage of the immediate area.

As part of the air research programme of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs, Hensoldt is already investigating the application of MIMO technology for aerial cabs and helicopters in urban environments as well as in wider airspace. This will include developing and testing the linking of the system’s DAA capabilities with other radar systems for tracking, data transmission, and control. The first flight tests in collaboration with the German Aerospace Center are also planned for 2023.

As a lighthouse project of the European Defence Fund, the Eurodrone is being developed under German leadership together with France, Italy, and Spain, and underlines Germany’s role as a responsible foreign and security policy player in NATO and the EU.

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