A Radar-Equipped Drone Is Blazing A Trail For The Day

Posted on Jan 21 2017 - 7:59pm by Brian Atkinson

Echodyne recently announced that it has successfully tested drones equipped with radar to detect and avoid objects in flight.

The drone took to the air last month in Texas for a series of tests aimed at finding out how well Bellevue-based Echodyne is miniaturized detect-and-avoid radar could spot obstacles and other aircraft. The results confirmed that the Echodyne is on the right track.

Echodyne – a small aerospace startup which develops radar for drones, robots and autonomous cars – has demonstrated that the small drones have the ability to see and avoid stationary and moving objects, which marks a major step toward the opening up the commercial drone market for companies like Amazon.



The radar tests were conducted with an undisclosed partner, and using Echodyne’s developer kit radar with its patented Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA). The company announced preliminary test results from field trials of its MESA-DAA radar system. It says that the device, which is barely larger than smartphone, and is capable of detecting even small aircraft at a distance 1.8 miles in varying weather conditions. The company also says that this breakthrough is driven by the use of metamaterials, which enable the radar to eliminate moving parts, making hardware smaller and more battery efficient without sacrificing range.

Echodyne’s tech uses metamaterials, the emerging science of engineering materials so they have useful properties that don’t occur in nature.

Echodyne is among the companies building tech aimed at the growing commercial-drone industry. Drones are already in the use from inspecting cellphone towers to getting a bird’s-eye view of how crops are growing.

The goal is to make a radar that’s cheaper and lighter than the advanced radar arrays on the market, suitable for the growing world of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The device is designed to detect Cessna-sized aircraft and other objects from up to 3 km (1.9 miles) away, and small drones at a distance of up to 750 meters (nearly a half-mile).