Sagetech Transponder Enables ADS-B for NASA Detect-and-Avoid

The SIERRA-B technology demonstration signifies NASA's commitment to push the boundaries of what's possible on UAVs, even small ones, and lays the groundwork for future FAA rule-making.

Sagetech, once again paves the way for transponder and ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast) equipage on small to medium UAVs (Unmanned Air Vehicles) by providing its MXS transponder to NASA for DAA (Detect-and-Avoid) research.

The NASA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Integration in the National Airspace System Project and its government and industry partners have been conducting research to reduce technical barriers to routine operation of unmanned aircraft in the national airspace system.

Flight tests conducted with NASA’s Ikhana UAS beginning in 2014 are being used to develop and validate minimum operational performance standards for large (group 5) UAVs to detect and avoid other aircraft.

(Learn More. Ikhana, an MQ-9 Predator B aircraft, was built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., and is flown by NASA’s Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center. Ikhana is a Native American Choctaw word meaning intelligent, conscious, or aware. The name is descriptive of the research goals NASA has established for the aircraft and its related systems. Courtesy of NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center and YouTube)

An upcoming project phase will see NASA extending its DAA research to smaller UAVs, conducting flight tests with its medium-class (group 3) SIERRA-B (Sensor Integrated Environmental Remote Research Aircraft).

Sagetech MXS Mode S Transponder with ADS-B
Sagetech MXS Mode S Transponder with ADS-B

ADS-B transmits GPS position data to other aircraft nearby for use by operators and aircraft control algorithms to maintain safe separation distances.

Sagetech’s transponder with integral ADS-B enables NASA’s system to electronically “see” nearby aircraft and maneuver to avoid them.

Similarly, it enables the SIERRA-B to “be seen” by those same aircraft.

“Sagetech is pleased NASA chose its transponders for its research into safe, routine operation of UAVs together with manned aircraft, but I’m not surprised,” says Kelvin Scribner, Sagetech’s CEO.

Kelvin Scribner, Sagetech CEO
Kelvin Scribner, Sagetech CEO

“For over 10 years Sagetech’s miniature surveillance equipment has enabled efficient military operations with small UAVs that would have been impossible otherwise.”

UAV operations are projected to increase sharply in civil airspace, especially once rules for accessing that airspace are in place.

The SIERRA-B technology demonstration signifies NASA’s commitment to push the boundaries of what’s possible on UAVs, even small ones, and lays the groundwork for future FAA rule-making.

Small UAVs are difficult to see, which makes visual detection unreliable and primary radars struggle to detect reflected energy from the small radar cross-section of these tiny airplanes.

Transponder equipage overcomes these obstacles by enabling UAVs to “squawk” replies to secondary radar interrogations.

ADS-B equipage goes a step further by periodically “squittering” position and other aircraft data automatically and air traffic controllers depend on transponders and ADS-B to maintain safe separation between these aircraft.

With Sagetech transponders, UAVs as small as 20 pounds can share airspace safely and routinely with other manned and unmanned aircraft.

Sagetech Corporation provides miniature avionics suited for use in UAVs as small as 10 lbs.

Sagetech aviation transponders have long been used to facilitate military operations worldwide, logging over 1 million combat flight hours.

Its MX family of certified transponders will facilitate UAV operations in both domestic and foreign national airspace.

Sagetech will be exhibiting at AUVSI’s Xponential 2018 (Denver, CO) in Booth #1620 from 1-3 May 2018.