TEL AVIV – A US-Israel technology foundation has selected a team from Honeywell and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to develop an anti-collision system aimed at allowing UAVs to operate in civilian airspace.

The joint development project, funded by a $900,000 grant from the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), is slated for flight testing on the IAI Heron-1 UAV in mid-2018, both firms announced on Monday.

According to their July 11 statement, the Honeywell-IAI Sense-and-Avoid (SAA)-equipped Heron prototype will be tested in Israeli airspace following nearly two years of development work conducted in Tel Aviv and multiple locations in the US.

The BIRD grant is worth $900,000, and the project will supplemented with matching funds from both firms, Eitan Yudelevich, the foundation's executive director, told Defense News.

"The BIRD Foundation Board of Governors selected the IAI-Honeywell project because it promises an innovative solution to a high-priority challenge of safety in civilian airspace," Yudelevich said. "We congratulate the team for a great partnership; and are delighted to be able to facilitate their success."

Yossi Weiss, President and CEO of IAI, said that developing a sense-and-avoid system for their Heron unmanned system "marks a significant step forward in integrating [Medium Altitude Long Endurance] UAVs into civilian airspace.

"We are excited to work with Honeywell, a leading company in avionics and safety systems, and view this effort as the first step in a series of cooperative efforts," said Weiss.

He added, "Together our organizations will lead the way to resolve an issue that impacts the entire aviation industry."

Carey Smith, President of Honeywell Aerospace, Defense and Space, said the project would allow the firm to apply "decades of experience helping manned aircraft safely operate around the world.

"Now we're applying that knowledge and inventing new technologies and solutions to create a safer airspace," Smith said.

According to a June 2015 Congressional Research Service report on US-Israel cooperation and US aid to Israel, BIRD "provides matchmaking services between Israeli and American companies in research and development with the goal of expanding cooperation between US and Israeli private high-tech industries."

The BIRD Foundation was established in 1977 with US Congressional appropriations of some $45 million and matching funds from the Israeli government. Since the initial funding in 1977 and 1985, BIRD has conferred some $319 million in grants to stimulate, promote and support joint (non-defense) industrial research and development to the mutual benefit of the two countries.

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