Innovative detection system for MQ-9A UAVs in civil airspace


Discover how General Atomics’ detection system will enable MQ-9A UAVs to navigate safely in civil airspace, marking a major technological breakthrough.


The integration of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) into civil airspace represents a major technical challenge, not least to ensure safe cohabitation with manned aircraft. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. is proposing an innovative solution for the MQ-9A Reaper, enabling safe navigation thanks to a detection and avoidance system.

Detection and avoidance system development

Control and objectives

The U.S. Navy, seeking a solution to enable the MQ-9A Reaper attack drone to fly safely in controlled airspace, has awarded a $30.9 million contract to General Atomics. This system is essential to meet “see and avoid” requirements in US airspace.

Technical specifications

The system is based on an air-to-air radar (ATAR) and a software-based see-and-avoid algorithm. It also incorporates a Collision and Traffic Avoidance System (TCAS) II, in line with aviation safety standards.

Due Regard Radar (DRR)

The DRR radar, equipped with a dual-panel AESA antenna, enables the Reaper’s remote pilot to detect and track multiple targets simultaneously, facilitating the UAV’s integration into international civil airspace.


Implications and outlook


This advanced system promises to improve UAV safety by enabling harmonious coexistence with manned aircraft, paving the way for extensive civil and commercial applications.

Challenges and issues

Despite its advantages, the integration of such systems raises regulatory, safety and cost issues, requiring rigorous evaluation for widespread adoption.

Potential consequences

Successful adoption of this system could revolutionize the use of UAVs in civil airspace, positively influencing the surveillance, transport and logistics sectors.

General Atomics’ detection and avoidance system is a major breakthrough for the safe integration of MQ-9A UAVs in civil airspace. This technological innovation opens up new perspectives for the use of UAVs, while posing regulatory and operational challenges that will need to be addressed to realize its full potential.

General Atomics’ innovation transforms the integration of MQ-9A UAVs into civil airspace, offering an advanced detection and avoidance solution that marries safety, cutting-edge technology and regulatory compliance.

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