When the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency tested an “Aerial Dragnet” system for tracking drones over urban terrain last month, Echodyne lent a helping hand.
Echodyne — a Kirkland, Wash.-based startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates — provided the compact radar systems for DARPA’s tests during the week of Oct. 23 in the San Diego area, in conjunction with the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory.
The Aerial Dragnet exercise involved putting Echodyne’s EchoGuard and EchoFlight flat-panel radar systems on two large tethered aerostat balloons that flew as high as 400 feet, as well as on rooftops and towers around San Diego and National City.
DARPA then sent up several types of drones for the systems to detect and track. A key challenge involved being able to distinguish the drones from other objects in the background, including ground vehicles and birds.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other investors have contributed to a fresh $20 million funding round for Kirkland, Wash.-based Echodyne, a company that makes use of exotic metamaterials to build high-performance radar technology for government and commercial markets.
In today’s announcement, Echodyne said the additional capital will enable the company to meet growing demand for its EchoGuard 3D surveillance radar, expand its distribution channels and continue to invest in the development of sensors for commercial drones, autonomous vehicles and other applications.
The latest round’s other investors include firms that have previously backed Echodyne, including Madrona Ventures, NEA, Vulcan Capital and Lux Capital. But there’s a new backer on board as well: Vanedge Capital, which is based in Vancouver, B.C. Vanedge managing partner Moe Kermani will be added to Echodyne’s board of directors.
A public-private consortium led by the University of Alaska has conducted the first-ever federally authorized test flight of a drone beyond the operator’s line of sight without on-the-ground observers keeping watch – with Echodyne, the radar venture that’s backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and headquartered in Kirkland, Wash., playing a supporting role.
Autonomous flight beyond visual line of sight will be key to the kinds of drone delivery operations envisioned by Amazon, Walmart and other retailers.
Current FAA regulations limit drone flights to the operator’s visual line of sight. Pilot projects have been experimenting with technologies that can ensure safe operations beyond the visual line of sight, known as BVLOS. But until now, the FAA’s waivers still required a ground-based observer to look out for non-cooperative aircraft coming into the test area.
Kirkland, Wash.-based Echodyne, a radar-focused startup backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, is seeking the Federal Communications Commission’s expedited approval to have its drone-detecting radar system used in an experiment planned during the NFL’s Super Bowl in Atlanta.
Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen are among the investors putting another $29 million into Echodyne, the Intellectual Ventures spin-out that’s developing low-cost, miniaturized radar systems for drones and self-driving cars.
Echodyne founder and CEO Eben Frankenberg said the Series B funding round was led by New Enterprise Associates, or NEA, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
Gates, Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group, the Kresge Foundation and Allen’s Vulcan Capital are among the investors following up on their participation in 2014’s $15 million Series A round, Frankenberg told GeekWire. He declined to say how the new investment affects the valuation of the company, based in Bellevue, Wash.
“The new investment will be used to continue developing the technology,” Frankenberg said.
Echodyne’s drone-sized radar system has received a vote of confidence – and a $118,721 award – from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The award, made through the department’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program, is designed to help the U.S. Border Patrol enhance its ability to monitor activities at the nation’s borders. The potential applications range from tracking down bad guys to search-and-rescue operations.
An award of a little more than $100,000 may not sound like a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a welcome boost for Echodyne – a startup headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., that counts Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen among its investors.
“The great thing is we get the opportunity to take the commercial product we’re developing, do a few modifications and have them test it,” Echodyne CEO Eben Frankenberg told GeekWire today.
BELLEVUE, Wash. – A radar-equipped drone is blazing a trail for the day when flying robots fill the skies – and deliver your packages.
The drone took to the air last month in Texas for a series of tests aimed at finding out how well Bellevue-based Echodyne’s miniaturized detect-and-avoid radar could spot obstacles and other aircraft. The results confirmed that Echodyne is on the right track.
BELLEVUE, Wash. – Radar and aircraft go together like hand and glove, but what do you do when the aircraft is a commercial drone that weighs less than a fully loaded suitcase? Bellevue-based Echodyne is taking the wraps off a radar system that’s just a step up from smartphone size but provides advanced capabilities for drones and autonomous vehicles.
Echodyne’s technology is known as Metamaterials Electronically Scanning Array, or MESA. It takes advantage of beam-directing metamaterials to perform radar scanning without moving parts, and without the complicated electronics that phased-array systems require. The system’s small size and big capability hit the sweet spot for small unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, which could soon be used for package deliveries.
“No radar has existed that anyone could think of to put on a small UAV,” Eben Frankenberg, Echodyne’s founder and CEO, told GeekWire. “That’s where we’re super-excited to come into play.”