Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date




Publication Title




Conference Name

AIAA SCITECH 2022 Forum, 3-7 January 2022, San Diego, California & Virtual


Onboard detection and tracking capability are integral to the sensing component in collision avoidance systems needed to safely operate autonomous urban air taxis and small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Ground-based validation of detection and tracking systems is an important milestone towards the end goal of real-time collision avoidance using onboard sensors and algorithms. In this work, we evaluate three Extended Kalman Filter (EKF) based fusion trackers with radar and vision detection inputs, and compare them with baseline trackers for each sensor type. Performance is assessed using field collected data of ground to air test flights with the sensors co-located on a stable platform with an instrumented multirotor acting as the intruder performing a waypoint pattern at a distance of 1.1 km to 0.3 km to simulate a head-on collision geometry. Fusing an image-based morphological detector with a radar detector using an EKF covered 74% of the ground truth position updates logged by the flight controller on the multirotor within an error of 50 meters, after accounting for alignment offsets, while covering 15% more ground truth updates relative to radar only. Removing timestamps when the intruder aircraft is occluded by trees and only considering timestamps where the radar has an update, the EKF image-based morphological detector combined with the radar detector covered 90% of the ground truth position updates within an error of 50 meters and 97% within an error of 100 meters.


This material is declared a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Foreign copyright applies.

Original Publication Citation

Dolph, C. V., Lombaerts, T., Kawamura, E., Ippolito, C. A., Stepanyan, V., Iftekharuddin, K., Szatkowski, G., McSwain, R., Morris, C., Malekpour, M. R., & Minwalla, C. (2022) Ground to air testing of a fused optical-radar aircraft detection and tracking system. In AIAA SCITECH 2022 Forum (pp. 1-21). Langley Research Center.


0000-0001-8316-4163 (Iftekharuddin)