Obstacle Detection System for Small UAVs using ADS-B and Thermal Imaging

Adrian Carrio, Yucong Lin, Srikanth Saripalli, Pascual Campoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Thermal Infrared (TIR) imaging is a promising technology which can provide enhanced capabilities to current vision-based Sense-and-Avoid (SAA) systems. It allows operation under extreme illumination conditions, such as direct sun exposure and during nighttime. This paper presents a lightweight obstacle detection system for small UAVs that integrates a TIR camera and an Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) receiver. Algorithms for the detection of flying obstacles in TIR images were developed and TIR images were experimentally compared with synchronized RGB images for validation. Matching between aircraft detected in TIR images and those reported by an ADS-B receiver was performed to obtain distance information to the visually detected aircraft. We experimentally proved that our system is able to enhance individual ADS-B and TIR detection capabilities by detecting aircraft under challenging illumination conditions at real-time frame rates while providing distance estimations to visual detections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-595
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems: Theory and Applications
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • ADS-B
  • Aircraft detection
  • Collision avoidance
  • Obstacle detection
  • Sense-and-Avoid
  • Thermal infrared
  • UAV

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence


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