Enabling Safe Autonomous and Beyond Line of Sight Flight Using Radar Vision

  • Room: C144/145
Monday, May 08, 2017: 4:30 PM - 5:00 PM


Tom Driscoll
Echodyne Corp


Radar is the ideal sensor for airborne Detect And Avoid (DAA), providing access to high-resolution bearing, range, and velocity data at long ranges and in all-weather environments for both cooperative and non-cooperative objects. Historically, the only radars capable of nimbly scanning beams and actively tracking objects over a wide field of view in azimuth and elevation have been phased-array radars which are way too large and far too expensive to be relevant for commercial UAS. Contemporary alternatives to phased-arrays are unsatisfying, and poorly suited for safe airspace navigation: typically, either slow mechanical gimbals, or direction-of-arrival radars with limited functionality and fixed field-of-view. In a push to enable true autonomy and safe Beyond Visual Line-Of-Sight (BVLOS) operation, Echodyne has leveraged its Metamaterials Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) technology to build a DAA radar which possesses the real-beam scanning capability of a phased-array, but at the ultra-low Cost, Size, Weight, and Power (C-SWAP) points required for commercial UAS applications. This session presents performance metrics and field-test validation of the MESA-DAA sensor, which is able to detect and track aircraft beyond 3km and scan over an industry-leading Reconfigurable-Field-Of-View (RFOV) of up to 120º in Azimuth by 80º in Elevation. We explore test results from a wide range of BVLOS relevant scenarios: detection and de-confliction with fixed wing aircraft (e.g. Cessna) and small multi-rotor platforms (e.g. DJI Phantom), as well as classically non-cooperative environmental obstacles (e.g. birds and power lines). In these scenarios, we also discuss how MESA-DAA operates as an intelligent sensor, leveraging MESA’s ultra-fast beam-steering to provide unparalleled levels of safety and operational flexibility.


Who Should Attend

UAS manufacturers and operators, and those interested in next-generation sensors enabling autonomous vehicles.

Motivational background for this session is how a new metamaterials-based architecture for radar (named MESA: Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array) has enabled the creation of high-performance real-beam-scanning radars systems with high-end phased array like performance at unprecedentedly low Cost, Size, Weight, and Power (C-SWaP) perfectly suited for commercial UAS.
After spending multiple years developing this breakthrough new radar technology, Echodyne has now released a commercially available MESA radar designed specifically for Detect And Avoid (DAA) for sUAS operation. This talk follows in logical continuation from Echodyne’s session at Xponential 2016, wherein we presented input requirements for such a sensor, proposed nominal specifications, and discussed results from models and simulations. MESA-DAA has now been released and validated in field-tests (by both Echodyne and early-access partners) and the bulk of the session will be presentation of test data and analysis. These results serve not only to verify performance, but also to highlight key lessons learned regarding operation in the uniquely challenging environments of sUAS applications.