Weather Avoidance Sensor Systems for Unmanned Aerial Systems
Navy SBIR 2018.2 - Topic N182-099
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Attick -
Opens: May 22, 2018 - Closes: June 20, 2018 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Weather Avoidance Sensor Systems for Unmanned Aerial Systems



ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMA-262 Persistent Maritime Unmanned Aircraft Systems

OBJECTIVE: Develop an enhanced approach to unmanned aircraft weather avoidance using a combination of organic weather radar and electro-optics.

DESCRIPTION: In manned aviation, the pilot complements Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC)-provided weather products by considering visual cues along with the information provided by the onboard weather radar. Visual cues become a vital tool for an experienced pilot. Weather radar has limitations and visual cues can help mitigate those limitations. For instance, onboard radar alone is inadequate at detecting icing, hail, lightning, or turbulence and at providing the most expeditious escape route if encountered. Pilot sensory (mostly visual) cues assist in detecting and avoiding these weather hazards. Listening to the radio chatter of other pilots operating in the vicinity can also be very helpful. Lack of a pilot on the aircraft calls for development of mitigation strategies via an enhanced approach to unmanned aircraft weather avoidance using organic weather radar and electro-optics. For example, during certain mission phases there may be visual information available to the air vehicle operator (AVO) from the onboard Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) mission sensor, to aid in weather avoidance when combined with weather radar returns.

PHASE I: Demonstrate the feasibility of concepts for enhancing weather avoidance through the combined use of organic weather radar and electro-optics. Develop the supporting architecture to implement on a Navy unmanned aircraft. Show specific consideration of not impacting tactical mission success due to the use of mission sensors for weather avoidance using a fast time simulation to establish timeline impacts. Develop EO/IR height estimation algorithm and modeling. Perform a system level error analysis. Develop plans for a prototype to be developed in Phase II.

PHASE II: Demonstrate the concepts developed in Phase I through field tests using representative sensors in a range of weather conditions. Develop a transition plan to integrate the capability on candidate platforms.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Complete development of a system and integrate it into a Navy unmanned platform. Weather detection and avoidance are essential capabilities for all unmanned aircraft. As use of unmanned aircraft in the commercial sector grows, so will the benefit of the technology developed under this SBIR topic.


1. Barr, J. “Airborne weather radar: a user's guide.” 1st edition. Iowa State University Press, 1993.

2. Battan, L. “Radar observation of the atmosphere.” University of Chicago Press, 1973.

KEYWORDS: Unmanned Aerial Systems; Weather Detection; Airborne Weather Radar; Optical Weather Detection; Rain; Turbulence



Ollie Allen





Lee Skaggs




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