Harris to Partner with University of North Dakota in Drone Development Program

Harris has been awarded a grant from the University to join in the development of new unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Harris corp. aircraft products have a history in manned aircraft traffic management and those principals will now be applied to unmanned systems. This grant trails a similar research program where Harris and the University of North Dakota were developing UAS detect-and-avoid technology. It seems that the previous grant was a success since the team is continuing to work together and advancing to the next logical step.

According to Harris and the University of North Dakota, the unmanned aircraft systems could be very important resource saving technology in commercial industries such as power, railroad, and farms. Potential users are already taking interest and volunteering for test scenarios. Finding a downed powerline can be a very costly when there are miles of cable in unobserved areas. The idea of deploying a drone to find the downed power line seems like a great one, and it is, but there are huge hurdles when it comes to deploying an unmanned aircraft, especially when it is beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

The most basic drones are considered VLOS or visual line of sight. This means they never leave sight of the operator. They are limited to 300m vertically and 500m horizontally. Next comes extended visual line of sight (EVLOS) drones. These must be controlled by advanced flight crew and operations must be approved by CASA. These are only limited by remote observation and can theoretically be unrestricted in distance with enough observers. Lastly comes the BVLOS drones which is where Harris and the University of North Dakota are focusing. BVLOS drones require detect and avoid technology to sense other aircraft and immediately move away. These have the most utility capabilities but are the hardest to develop. The University and Harris are working hard to bring UAS detect-and-avoid technology to the commercial market.

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