FOX, Alaska — August 2, 2019
Echodyne, Iris Automation and Skyfront ensure safety of first ever BVLOS flight without human observers conducted by University of Alaska Fairbanks’ UAS IPP team
Echodyne, the manufacturer of innovative, high-performance radars for government and commercial markets, announced today that its EchoGuard airspace management radars were the ground-based sensor for the first-ever UAS mission to operate beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) flight without ground observers. The ground-based sensors worked in coordination with Iris Automation’s onboard detect-and-avoid system. The demonstration of a nearly four-mile linear inspection mission along the Trans-Alaska pipeline was designed and conducted by The University of Alaska’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot Program (UASIPP) and the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company and is a true first for the UAS industry. All other BVLOS missions required ground observers, which is too logistically complex and costly for business applications.
“Alaska Fairbanks’ team has shown the future of UAS missions for industrial and commercial companies,” said Eben Frankenberg, Echodyne CEO. “There are many applications that require operation beyond the operator’s sight. This practical demonstration of detect-and-avoid technologies for a real-world inspection application helps aviation authorities define the sensors and tools necessary to ensure UAS safety for dozens of industries and applications.”
Led by the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) team, the test deployment consisted of Echodyne radars along the pipeline path to provide airspace situational awareness and Iris Automation’s computer vision collision avoidance technology onboard Skyfront’s long-range hybrid multicopter drone. The test was operated by UAF on July 31 and was successful and safe.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s UASIPP is conducted in multiple locations across the US, and Echodyne’s sensor technology is a key part of these programs. The program encourages government authorities at all levels to cooperate with drone operators and sensor technology manufacturers to accelerate the safe adoption of drones into the nation’s airspace. The UAF team proposed several ways to pioneer safe drone use in Alaska — to deliver medical devices to remote areas, help searches and rescues, survey fish and wildlife, and monitor pipelines, roads and other infrastructure.
Operating in coordination with ground-based systems, like Echodyne radar, the Casia system from Iris Automation directs the UAS to avoid airspace collisions and assures mission safety. “The mission parameters defined by UAF really push the industry to increase sensor technology’s effectiveness,” said Iris Automation CEO and Co-founder Alexander Harmsen. “Our Casia system performed well and demonstrated that leveraging onboard detect and avoid systems is critical to mission safety and produces the results businesses are seeking.”
Echodyne’s airspace management radar, EchoGuard, combines cutting edge MESA technology and powerful software to create a true electronically scanning array (ESA) radar sensor with unprecedented performance for its ultra-low size, weight, power, and cost. Equally suited for fixed or temporary deployments, Echodyne radars detect, track, and classify objects of interest in the airspace and communicate this data to situational awareness systems to ensure safety for BVLOS missions.
Echodyne introduces the world’s first compact, software-defined, solid-state, true electronically scanned array (ESA) radar sensor. Ideally suited for machine perception in an autonomous age, Echodyne offers high-performance, commercially priced radars to governments, industries, and integrators engineering solutions for border security, critical infrastructure protection, autonomous vehicles, unmanned aircraft systems, and first responders. Privately held, the company is based in Kirkland, Washington, and is backed by Bill Gates, NEA, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, and Lux Capital among others.