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Research and Development

A small drone impacting a crash test dummy

A small drone impacting a crash test dummy

We’ve advanced high-value applications across the UAS industry by focusing on foundational technologies. Our broad research and development portfolio encompasses hardware, software, and process-oriented projects in areas crucial to successful drone integration. 

This fundamental research has formed the basis for unique waivers and permissions that have created new business opportunities for our partners and expanded the potential of the UAS industry as a whole. It has also led to a rigorous process for developing safety cases that has become a model in the industry for systematic evaluation and mitigation of operational risks.

UAS Traffic Management

MAAP has been heavily engaged in UTM research since 2016. We led complex, large-scale tests in three cycles of NASA’s UTM test series and subsequently won contracts for both iterations of the FAA’s follow-on UTM Pilot Program — the only test site asked to participate two years in a row.

Our UTM research is enhanced by productive, long-term collaborations with leading USS providers. This model ensures that the traffic-management architecture developed and tested through these programs will support a UTM ecosystem that can effectively enable meaningful industry applications. 

Operations Over People 

MAAP has broken new ground in enabling operations over people and moving vehicles by pioneering empirical methods for accurately evaluating impact risk. We have partnered on this work with Virginia Tech’s nationally renowned Center for Injury Biomechanics. Their team’s unparalleled expertise in understanding injury risk and designing relevant impact tests, combined with our operational knowledge of UAS use cases, flight patterns, and failure modes, allowed us to develop rigorous, real-world test methods that provide the data necessary to support waivers and permissions for our partners.

Counter UAS 

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there are currently over 1.7 million UAS registered in the U.S.  As drone numbers continue to increase and drone technologies rapidly evolve, the security threats presented by these new technologies need to be managed. To combat these threats, federal agencies utilize Counter UAS – an initiative that involves utilizing systems designed to detect drones and deploying countermeasures against drones that are deemed a threat. MAAP has extensive expertise in this area and has worked for the Department of Defense and the DHS to evaluate these system’s effectiveness to detect drones. MAAP is skilled at developing tests and has experience evaluating Electro Optical/Infrared and Radar and Acoustic detection devices.   

Detect and Avoid

Detect-and-avoid is the central prerequisite for broad UAS integration in the NAS. This multifaceted challenge will require a dynamic combination of solutions that can address various applications and operational contexts. We have tested a wide range of technologies in accordance with emerging standards from RTCA and ASTM, including ground and airborne radar, acoustic sensors, and others. 

MAAP utilizes in-house simulation capabilities to evaluate end-to-end performance of DAA systems.  These simulations utilize experimentally derived probabilistic sensor and ownship models to evaluate the full range of possible encounter geometries in a statistically meaningful way. These simulation tools enable fine tuning of alerting timelines, avoidance maneuvers, and operational volumes to define an overall DAA system that meets the required level of safety.

Advanced Air Mobility

With 2022 federal legislation requiring the Department of Transportation to form a working group to develop a national Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) strategy and Virginia joining a multi-state collaborative to support the AAM industry, the state is moving toward its goal of preparing for the future of advanced flight in Urban and Advanced Air Mobility.

MAAP has supported the state’s AAM initiatives by performing research and drafting a report for the Virginia Department of Aviation and by serving on a multi-state AAM preparedness committee and on Virginia’s Advanced Air Mobility Alliance. Many of the critical technologies that have been advanced by MAAP's research, including UAS traffic management and detect and avoid, will be foundational for developing a safe AAM ecosystem.

UAS Communications

As UTM and DAA technologies mature, advancing towards the sophistication needed to safely enable BVLOS flights, communications architectures capable of relaying safety-critical information over longer distances is coming into focus as a crucial issue. 

Technology and performance standards in this area are evolving in tandem, demanding new test methods to assess their performance. By developing protocols for evaluating new communications technology against emerging standards, our research will inform future standards development, hardware and software refinement, and rulemaking.