July 18, 2013: Sky Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System

  • Published
  • 412th Test Wing

The F-22 Combined Task Force  accomplished its first Line in the Sky Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS) mission,

The Auto GCAS,developed jointly by Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the Air Force Research Laboratory and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was designed to reduce incidents of what is known as controlled flight into terrain.  According to Air Force statistics, these incidents account for 26 percent of aircraft losses and a staggering 75 percent of all F-16 pilot fatalities.

According to Ed Griffin, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ program manager for the Automatic Collision Avoidance Technologies Fighter Risk Reduction Program, the system consists of a set of complex collision avoidance and autonomous decision making algorithms that utilize precise navigation, aircraft performance and on-board digital terrain data to determine if a ground collision is imminent. If the system predicts an imminent collision, an autonomous avoidance maneuver—a roll to wings-level and +5g pull—is commanded at the last instance to prevent ground impact.

The Auto GCAS executes in the background and automatically provides protection whether the pilot is distracted, task-saturated, incapacitated, or unconscious. No action is required by the pilot, though the system does have a pilot override function. “Based on the data we’ve seen so far, the Auto GCAS is doing exactly what it was designed to do: save priceless lives and valuable military aircraft,” said Griffin. “Many aviation professionals believe autonomy is emerging as the new frontier in aviation and Auto GCAS currently represents the leading edge of autonomy as it applies to manned platforms.”

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