Drones everywhere now have a pair of sight, thanks to Echodyne’s military-style radar technology.
Echodyne, a Bellevue, Wash.-based startup, could make the process much easier for Amazon’s operation of delivering parcels by drones.
The big challenge, however, as stated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, says that systems that enable drones to detect and avoid other aircraft are needed before they can be allowed to operate out of the sight of supervising humans.
Up until now, there is no single complete system that consistently and precisely enables drones to detect and avoid other aircraft, and it is this big challenge that Echodyne hopes to bring its solution.
All these poor blind drones don’t know where they are heading, even when navigated with cameras attached by humans.
But fear not, Echodyne achieved this by shrinking a component called a phase shifter needed for a radar to scan its beam around the world to identify and track objects.
There’s more to it, this ‘detect and avoid’ (DAA) radar technology (as they call it), not only enables a drone to see moving and stationary obstacles, but it uses metamaterials technology too, which enables the radar to deliver the high-performance electronic scanning in a smaller, lighter, and cheaper form factor than has previously been thought possible.
This metameterials technology, otherwise known patented as Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) developed by Echodyne, precisely uses flat-panel scanning arrays that have no moving parts.
They were already tested with small commercial drones that flew multiple missions below 400 feet over a couple of days, and you can take a look at the video footage of the flight below.
As the drone takes off, you can see the traces of barbed wire fences and trees in the radar image on the left. Later, the radar detects another drone nearby and tracks its progress. In other tests the system showed it could detect a small single-propeller plane and an ultralight aircraft.
If you didn’t know, this electronically scanning radar ‘stuff’ is mostly limited to military uses, because of the phase shifters used being too big and expensive.
With the emergence of Echodyne’s new radar, which is just the size of a freaking tablet, you can expect that this alternative radar tech will encourage the arrival for operations such as package delivery, infrastructure inspection and agricultural monitoring.
Echodyne says its ‘detect and avoid’ (DAA) radar technology will release commercially early in 2017, with an initial price of $9,995.
Now they are not the only ones who are working on this kind of drone radar tech, as Eben Frankenberg, CEO and cofounder of Echodyne, added that multiple drone companies are already testing his technology, but declines to name them, citing nondisclosure agreements. He has also said some exciting news, that this tech might make its way to autonomous cars, in a bid to further develop the radars used by the self-driving cars produced by the likes of Tesla and Faraday Future.
Having drones which can actually see and not bump into other drones is a pretty great thing and with the emergence of drones used from stealth to farming, our future certainly looks inevitable with the prospects of drones being deployed in just about every sector.
Frankenberg lastly added
“Our belief is, you’d be way better off if you had radars on the drones,”
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Now are you looking forward to getting your packages delivered by a drone?