, Volume 69, Issue 1-4, pp 41-55,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 02 Aug 2012

A Reference Software Architecture to Support Unmanned Aircraft Integration in the National Airspace System


This paper outlines an architecture that provides data and software services to enable a set of Unmanned Aircraft (UA) platforms to operate in a wide range of air domains which may include terminal, en route, oceanic and tactical. The architecture allows a collection of command, control, situational awareness, conflict detection and avoidance, and data management elements to be composed in order to meet different requirement sets as defined by specific UA platforms, users, and operating regimes. The architecture discussed is based on a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) with open standards on the interfaces between elements. Services may include common situational awareness, sense and avoid, weather, data management and flight plan information. Service contracts specify quality of service, interface specifications, service description metadata, security provisions, and governance. Pieces of the architecture have been implemented by MIT Lincoln Laboratory in the form of a Sense and Avoid (SAA) testbed that provides some of the core services. This paper describes the general architecture and a SAA testbed implementation that begins to realize that architecture and quantifies the benefits. The proposed architecture is not directed at a specific program but is intended to provide guidance and offer architectural best practices.