Merlin & MIT Lincoln Laboratory Partner on Collision Avoidance System

A Merlin test aircraft over New Zealand
Photo Credit: Merlin

Merlin has announced a partnership with MIT Lincoln Laboratory (LL) to pioneer the next generation of aircraft collision avoidance technology.

Merlin is a developer of advanced automation systems for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

This working partnership marks a significant step towards the safe integration of UAVs into the National Airspace System (NAS).

The focus of the partnership is to integrate the ACAS Xu software standard (RTCA DO-386) with Merlin’s Pilot. This is the company’s core automation system.

ACAS Xu, funded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is an advanced airborne collision avoidance system designed for both manned and unmanned aircraft.

It offers significant improvements over the current TCAS II system, boasting better compatibility with the FAA’s next-gen air traffic management technologies.

Air Traffic Management and UAVs

“Collision avoidance systems are essential for safe air traffic management,” said Alex Naiman, CTO at Merlin.

“Integrating ACAS Xu with Merlin Pilot strengthens our system’s safety features. It propels the development of advanced automation, paving the way for a more autonomous future of flight.”

The marriage of these technologies is particularly timely considering the projected boom in the autonomous vehicle market. The new sector encompasses Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles.

UAM vehicles, also known as flying taxis or passenger drones, are poised to revolutionize transportation in urban areas. The new technology offers the potential of faster and more efficient commutes.

However, their safe integration into shared airspace with traditional manned aircraft is a critical hurdle.

A Merlin autonomous flight Cessna Caravan aircraft in flight.
Photo Credit: Merlin

Integrating UAVs and Commercial Airspace Operations

“At MIT LL, our mission is to develop cutting-edge technologies that address national security challenges,” explained Wesley Olson, Leader of the Surveillance Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory.

“Enhancing aviation safety is paramount, and ACAS Xu plays a vital role in improving situational awareness and preventing collisions.”

“Partnering with Merlin, a leader in drone automation, allows us to explore the commercial potential of ACAS Xu and shape the future of safe and efficient air traffic management.”

This collaboration between Merlin and MIT LL represents a significant stride towards the safe and scalable integration of UAVs into the NAS.

By leveraging ACAS Xu’s advanced capabilities, Merlin can further enhance the safety of its autonomous flight systems, ultimately accelerating the adoption of drones across various applications.

This not only benefits the commercial drone industry but also paves the way for the seamless introduction of UAM vehicles, ushering in a new era of urban transportation.

About Merlin

The company was founded in 2018 and headquartered in Boston, with additional offices in Denver, CO. It also manages flight test facilities in Mojave, CA and Kerikeri, New Zealand.

Merlin is building a platform-adaptable advanced automation system to perpetuate a resilient air network.

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
3 Min Read
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