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ASTM International Sense-and-Avoid Standard, for use with UAV Certifications, adopted by U.S. Department of Defense

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The U.S. Department of Defense recently adopted a commercial standard to govern the performance of automated sense and avoid systems it procures for its unmanned aircraft. The standard, ASTM F 2411, Specification for Design and Performance of an Airborne Sense-and-Avoid System, was developed last year by ASTM Internationals F38 Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, whose members represent a broad range of experienced aviation professionals from large to small companies, with backgrounds in private industry, civil government, and the military, having experience building and operating Predator-size down to model airplane-size unmanned aircraft. Automating sense-and-avoid is the key technical hurdle precluding unmanned aviation operating on an equal footing with manned aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration has implicitly relied on the eyesight of human pilots as the "last chance" means to avoid midair collisions when radar coverage is absent or transponders are inoperable or not installed. Without a human onboard, unmanned aircraft have lacked this "see-and-avoid" capability. A number of optical, infrared, and radar systems are now emerging to provide what is termed "an equivalent level of safety" by automating the see and avoid capability of humans. ASTM F 2411 provides the first common yardstick against which to measure the performance and quality of such systems.

Although originating from an unmanned aviation requirement, F 2411 applies equally to improving the safety of manned aviation. Extensive analysis underlying F 2411 shows that human-based see-and-avoid is insufficient in certain midair scenarios. Automated sense-and-avoid systems could complement human shortfalls, thus helping to reduce the dozen or more midairs between manned aircraft that occur every year over the U.S.

As for the eventual cost of such systems, because F 2411 does not dictate using specific technologies, its stipulations need not drive overly expensive solutions. The marketplace is expected to produce a range of sense and avoid equipment, to include low cost solutions.

ASTM standards are available from Customer Service (phone: 610/832-9585; or

More details on ASTM F 2411 can be found at (type in "2411" for the identification number) or at For further technical information, contact Mike Goy, Defense Standardization Program Office (phone: 703/767-6882;; or Mike Fagan, F38 Chairman (phone: 703/684-2900, Committee F38 meets Nov. 7-8, in Dallas, Texas. For membership or meeting details, contact Dan Schultz, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9716;

Release #7179