Echodyne to Develop Radar Vision for Autonomous Vehicles

By Mike Ball / 05 Jun 2017
Echodyne MESA radar
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Echodyne MESA radar

Echodyne Corporation has confirmed that following significant investment, the company will focus on developing and commercializing it’s patented MESA (Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array) radar technology for use on autonomous vehicles.

The safe operation of drones and autonomous vehicles is reliant on sensors that operate flawlessly in a wide range of environmental conditions. LiDAR and cameras have limited range plus poor reliability in adverse conditions, whilst the inadequate resolution offered by existing commercial radars mean a new solution is needed to advance the future development of autonomous cars and trucks. Echodyne’s radar vision platform solves these problems by delivering high-resolution, long-range, and all-weather capabilities ideal for autonomy.

Echodyne has received $29 million in Series B financing for the company’s work in applying the physics of metamaterials to deliver radar vision, a combination of high-performance agile imaging radar hardware with computer vision-like software for classification, recognition, and perception. MESA produces radar that is orders of magnitude smaller and lighter than phased array radar, which has long been considered the pinnacle of radar technology.

“When safety matters, Echodyne’s radar vision sensors will be onboard,” said Eben Frankenberg, CEO at Echodyne. “With new investment by some of the world’s most influential people and organizations, Echodyne will focus on extending our technology and scaling production as corporations, consumers, and regulation demand the highest standards in a more autonomous world.”

“The capability of MESA is truly unprecedented,” added Tom Driscoll, Echodyne’s CTO. “It gives these platforms a powerful new way to adaptively see and sense the world around them.”

Echodyne’s patented radar technology operates like phased array radars electronically steering a high-resolution spot beam instantly around the field of view with no moving parts. Unlike phased arrays, however, Echodyne’s MESA can be produced in high volumes, at commercial price points, and in small lightweight form factors. Echodyne’s first commercial product is the size of an Amazon Kindle and enables drones to navigate safely as they fly beyond sight of their operator. The sensor can detect and track a Cessna sized airplane or a helicopter at up to 3km, and a DJI Phantom sized drone at 750m. This can be done in the dark and in adverse environmental conditions (clouds, rain, etc). A shorter range system ideal for autonomous cars and trucks is also in development.

“Autonomous machines hold immense promise, but it is critical to underpin these machines with fundamental safety technology, “said Greg Papadopoulos, Venture Partner at NEA. “We’ve seen a lot of sensing technologies, but radar is especially well-suited to autonomous vehicles because they need to operate in all kinds of environmental conditions. Echodyne’s radar vision platform is unique and incredibly compelling in the way it combines the fundamental all-weather benefits of radar with the high-resolution imaging capabilities more often attributed to LIDAR or Computer Vision.”

“Echodyne has made amazing progress in a very short amount of time.” said Tim Porter of Madrona Venture Group. “We knew their radar technology represented a fundamental sensor breakthrough, but the autonomous vehicle markets have developed even faster than we expected. The convergence between their tech and the needs of autonomy couldn’t be more perfect and timely.”

Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact
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