Autonomous vehicles all need sensors that can help them detect and avoid objects in their environment. And to operate at high speeds, these sophisticated machines need to identify objects ahead precisely, and early enough, that they can avoid crashing into them.
Existing systems have included light ranging and detection systems and cameras, primarily. But the effectiveness of both LiDAR and cameras can hinge on weather. LiDAR and cameras don’t “see” well in fog, dust or other inclement weather typically. Some aren’t capable of long-range sensing. Many are also clunky enough that they can’t even be considered for use on drones.
Now, investors are betting $29 million that Echodyne and its lightweight radar systems will bring true autonomy to vehicles of every kind, starting with drones but also cars, boats, or mobile robots.
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.
On Monday, Seattle-area radar startup Echodyne is expected to announce a $29 million investment, led by NEA, with participation from other investors including Bill Gates and his Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital.
In fact, this is the second time Bill Gates has invested considerable cash in Echodyne. The world’s richest man personally led the company’s previous $15 million round, with Seattle’s high-profile Madrona Ventures chipping in on both investments.
NEA leads round that includes Bill Gates, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, and others
Bellevue, WA — Monday, May 22, 2017 — Echodyne Corp announced today a $29 million Series B financing led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with Bill Gates, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, The Kresge Foundation and others also participating in the round. Echodyne is 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. Echodyne’s patented technology, called MESA (Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array), produces radar that is orders of magnitude smaller, lighter and more affordable than phased array radar, which has long been considered the pinnacle of radar technology.
The autonomous era is evolving very quickly. Drones, autonomous cars and trucks, heavy machines, even flying cars are on the road, in the air, or coming soon. To operate safely, each of these machines needs sensors that operate flawlessly in a wide range of environmental conditions. Unfortunately, existing sensors all have fundamental flaws. LiDAR and cameras have limited range and don’t operate reliably in even moderately adverse conditions, and existing commercial radars have woefully inadequate resolution. Echodyne’s radar vision platform solves these problems by delivering high-resolution, long-range, and all-weather capabilities ideal for autonomy.
“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.”
“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’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. And, since it’s a radar, it can do so 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.
“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.”
Echodyne is bringing to market new radar based sensor technology that provides the critical high-resolution ground-truth data that autonomous machines and vehicles need to operate safely at any time and in any weather. Echodyne’s radar vision platform consists of patented high-performance and agile imaging radar hardware combined with computer vision-like software for classification, recognition, and perception. When safety matters, Echodyne’s radar vision sensors will be onboard. Echodyne is a privately held company backed by Bill Gates, NEA, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, and Lux Capital among others.
Just because we live in an age of many sensors doesn’t mean we always have the right one for the job. One in particular we’ve been lacking is a radar system that can detect obstacles and aircraft hundreds of meters out, yet fit comfortably on a small drone. The laws of physics, it seemed, prevented it — but Echodyne made it work anyway. And it’s ready to put out its first product.
Drones are usually blind—even those carrying cameras rely on a human to navigate safely and spot obstacles. But the octocopter in the video below used a prototype of a new compact, military-style radar system to detect its surroundings and track other aircraft.
Read more at MIT Technology Review »
Tech titans like Uber, Amazon, and Google have all laid out ambitious plans for filling the skies with autonomous aircraft. Uber wants to move people around with flying taxis, and Airbus is committed to producing this kind of vehicle. Meanwhile Google and Amazon are hoping to deliver packages with much smaller drones. All see the potential for fleets of unmanned aerial vehicles that can pilot themselves.
The skies of the future are going to be crowded with drones, and a startup called Echodyne is anticipating that day with a new radar that helps drones detect and avoid each other.
Bellevue, Wash.-based Echodyne said it has successfully tested its “detect and avoid” (DAA) radar on a small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The radar was mounted on a small commercial drone that flew multiple missions below 400 feet over a couple of days. The drone was of a size, payload, and range suited to applications such as package delivery, infrastructure inspection, and agricultural monitoring.
As we’ve pointed out over the last few years, there are some issues with the idea of urban or suburban delivery drones. Besides the fact that they’re illegal right now, the biggest technological problem is that none of the delivery drones that we’ve seen so far seem to have any kind of sense-and-avoid capability that could realistically deal with the challenges of urban airspace, including everything from other drones to light aircraft to birds to trees to overhead wiring.
BELLEVUE – New technology being developed in the Seattle area could revolutionize the way drones and self-driving cars avoid collisions.
The Bellevue company behind the radar advancements gave reporter Jeff Dubois the first look at how it works.
Echodyne, a radar array startup with investors including Bill Gates, his Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Capital, and Seattle’s own Madrona Ventures, just made what the company considers a landmark announcement for the future of self-driving vehicles.
Basically, Echodyne’s big breakthrough product is the Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) — a radar arrays that’s small enough to mount on a drone — like the ones Amazon or Google might use for their drone delivery programs — but that the company says is orders of magnitude more powerful than the kind you’d find on existing self-driving cars and drones.
Read the rest of the article at Business Insider »
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-based Echodyne Corp. today announced it has successfully tested drones equipped with radar to detect and avoid objects in flight.
Read the article at »
Echodyne, the metamaterials startup company backed by the likes of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, announced a successful test of its detect-and-avoid radar system for small drones.
Read the article at xconomy.com »
Echodyne, a radar-technology startup backed by investments from Bill Gates and Paul Allen, says it has successfully tested its detect-and-avoid radar mounted on a small commercial drone.
Detect And Avoid Radar on Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Provides Avenue to Open the National Airspace System to Beyond Visual Line of Sight Drone Operations
November 8, 2016, Bellevue, Wash. – Echodyne Corp today announced the first ever successful test of an airborne Detect and Avoid (DAA) radar on a small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (sUAV). Echodyne’s radar was mounted on a small commercial drone which flew multiple missions below 400’ over a period of several days. The drone was of a size, payload, and range well suited for package delivery, infrastructure inspection, and agricultural monitoring.
Echodyne’s detect and avoid technology enables a drone to ‘see’ moving and stationary obstacles using ‘radar vision’ as the drone flies through the airspace beyond line of sight of its operator. The radar tests were conducted with an undisclosed partner using Echodyne’s developer kit radar with its patented Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA). Echodyne’s radar is based on metamaterials technology which enables the radar to deliver high-performance electronic scanning in a smaller, lighter and less expensive form factor than has been previously thought possible.
“It’s great to see our technology performing in real world field tests exactly as designed,” said Echodyne founder and CEO Eben Frankenberg. “We’ve made tremendous progress with our technology in a very short time and are excited to release our MESA-DAA radar into the market in just a few months. Tests like this show that advanced radar can be deployed directly on small commercial UAVs to ensure safe beyond line of sight drone operations. Unlike other sensor technologies such as cameras and LIDARs, radar provides accurate tracking of obstacles at long range across a broad field of view in all types of weather.”
During the testing missions, the radar successfully scanned a broad field of view in both azimuth and elevation (up to 120° x 80°) detecting and tracking multiple types of aircraft including a small UAV, a Beechcraft Bonanza, and an ultralight aircraft flying through its airspace. The radar provided a 4D data cube of radar returns accurately depicting ground vegetation, barbed wire fences and other stationary obstacles, as well as the flight paths of the tracked aircraft. The tests used Echodyne’s developer kit radar which is a precursor to its MESA-DAA radar, which will detect and track Cessna sized objects up to 3km away and small drones up to 750m away. MESA-DAA will be available to commercial customers in early 2017.
“This test brings us one step closer to fulfilling Echodyne’s mission to make the world a safer place by enabling cars, drones and other vehicles to sense the world around them,” said Tom Driscoll, PhD, founder and CTO of Echodyne. “Phased array radars have long been the pinnacle of radar technology, but they remain too costly for commercial use. MESA operates very similarly to a phased array, but at a tiny fraction of the cost, size, weight and power, making it ideal for all kinds of high performance commercial applications including radar vision for drones and cars.”
Detect and Avoid Critical for Beyond Visual Line of Sight Operations
In the FAA’s recently issued rules for small UAV operation, all UAVs need to remain within visual line of sight of their pilot who is responsible for avoiding collisions. There is widespread acceptance that for UAVs to fly beyond line of sight of their operator, they will need DAA sensors and systems that safely replace the pilot’s “see and avoid” capability. And just like a pilot in a manned aircraft, any DAA system will need to detect and avoid both cooperative objects (e.g. those transmitting their position with a transponder) and non-cooperative objects (e.g. aircraft without transponders, birds, etc.); and do so reliably in a diverse range of weather conditions.
In its Aerospace Forecast, the FAA points out the importance of DAA to the long term success of the UAS industry, noting that “the overall demand for commercial UAS will soar once regulations more easily enable beyond visual line of sight operations and operations of multiple unmanned aircraft by a single pilot.”
Echodyne is making the world a safer place through breakthrough radar vision technology for the autonomous era. Echodyne’s patented Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) provides disruptive capabilities for existing radar applications, and enables high performance commercial radars never before thought possible such as small, lightweight, high performance radars for UAVs, autonomous cars and trucks, and security surveillance systems. Echodyne is a privately held company backed by Bill Gates, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, and The Kresge Foundation, among others.
The many use cases for drones are now clear. They can help tend crops more efficiently, find people lost in the wilderness, and even carry packages. How drones can be widely used for such things safely is much less certain.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says it won’t allow small drones to go beyond their pilot’s line of sight until technology is developed that allows the small fliers to detect and avoid other aircraft. That restriction would ground ideas like Amazon and Google’s plans for package delivery and make many others less lucrative.
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.
New radar provides avenue to open the National Airspace System to beyond visual line of sight UAS operations
May 2, 2016, Bellevue, Wash. – Echodyne Corp today announced the development of MESA-DAA, an Airborne Detect and Avoid (DAA) radar for small to medium-sized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The small, lightweight, and low power DAA radar will operate at K-band and be capable of rapidly scanning a broad field of view in azimuth and elevation at ranges out to 3km. MESA-DAA is based on Echodyne’s patented Metamaterials Electronically Scanning Array (MESA™), which offers breakthrough cost, size, weight, and power (C-SWAP) improvements over traditional electronically scanning array technology. The MESA-DAA radar is scheduled for release at the end of 2016 and will be an evolution of the MESA-K-DEV radar, which Echodyne released today.
“Detect and avoid is the single biggest technical hurdle to opening up the National Airspace System to UAS,” said Jim Williams, former head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) UAS Integration Office and current Principal at Dentons US, LLP and Echodyne advisor. “NASA, the FAA, industry, and academia have spent years studying the DAA problem and have determined radar is by far the best sensor, if not the only sensor, capable of providing the all-weather, long-range, and broad field of view scanning that is necessary for safe, highly reliable DAA. MESA-DAA technology may well represent the key to safely opening up airspace for beyond visual line of sight operations.”
Detect and Avoid Requirement
One of the FAA’s central aircraft operating rules is that pilots maintain vigilance so as to see and avoid other aircraft. To fulfill this requirement today, UAS need to remain within visual line of sight of their pilot. Although the regulations for UAS are still in development, there is widespread acceptance that for UAS to fly beyond line of sight of their operator, they will need DAA sensors and systems that safely replace the pilot’s see and avoid capability. This DAA capability will need to detect both cooperative objects (those transmitting their position with a transponder) and non-cooperative objects (aircraft without transponders, birds, etc.).
Radar is the only sensor capable of reliably performing DAA in all weather conditions and at the ranges, broad fields of view and scanning speeds necessary for safe operation of UAS in the NAS. Radar is the only sensor that directly measures the position of an object (i.e., range, azimuth, elevation) as well as its relative speed of approach (via Doppler).
“We believe MESA-DAA will be a critical technology for safely opening up the National Airspace System to small UAS for beyond visual line of sight operations,” said Eben Frankenberg, founder and CEO of Echodyne. “Radar is the sensor of choice for DAA, but existing radar technology is too slow, too bulky, and too expensive to provide DAA radar capabilities on small UAS. The C-SWAP characteristics of MESA and our DAA radar are completely unparalleled and uniquely well suited for small UAS.”
In the newly released FAA Aerospace Forecast, the FAA reports that it has already granted more than 4,000 Section 333 Exemptions for commercial UAS operations, clear evidence of the high demand for UAS applications. The FAA forecasts that sales of commercial small UAS could exceed 600,000 for 2016 and grow to 2.7 million by 2020, noting that “the overall demand for commercial UAS will soar once regulations more easily enable beyond visual line of sight operations and operations of multiple unmanned aircraft by a single pilot.”
MESA-DAA is based largely on Echodyne’s existing MESA-K-DEV radar. Package size and weight are expected to be less than MESA-K-DEV—especially if the unit is placed inside the UAS. Range is expected to be 3KM, and scanning speed is expected to be 1Hz for the entire field of view and as fast as 10Hz for updating locations on previously detected objects. The field of view for a single unit is expected to be ±60° in azimuth (120° total) and ±45° in elevation. Multiple units can be combined if greater field of view is desired.
In a separate release today, Echodyne announced availability of MESA-K-DEV, an ultra-low C-SWAP, fast electronically scanning radar based on its patented MESA. The radar operates at K-band and the fully self-contained and packaged unit measures a mere 22 x 7.5 x 2.5 cm and weighs only 820 grams.
Unlike conventional mechanical apertures that steer a radar beam using motorized gimbals, Echodyne’s MESA requires no moving parts to steer its beam. And unlike Phased Array radars or Active Electronically Scanning Array radars that require complicated and expensive transmit/receive modules—including phase shifters, amplifiers, circulators, and low noise amplifiers behind every single antenna element—MESA uses a vastly simpler metamaterials architecture. The net effect of this simplified architecture is dramatically lower cost, size, weight and power.
Echodyne is reinventing the way the world uses radar by creating high performance electronically scanning radars with ultra-low C-SWAP (cost, size, weight, and power). Echodyne’s patented Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) offers disruptive capabilities for existing radar applications, and enables new categories of radars never before thought possible such as small, lightweight radars for UAVs, robots, autonomous vehicles, and security that work well even when environmental conditions are less than ideal (e.g. in rain, snow, fog, dust, darkness, etc.). Echodyne is a privately held company backed by Bill Gates, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, and The Kresge Foundation, among others.
New technology enables high-performance radar for commercial markets and applications
May 2, 2016, Bellevue, Wash. – Echodyne Corp today announced availability of MESA-K-DEV, an ultra-low C-SWAP (cost, size, weight, and power), fast electronically scanning radar based on its patented Metamaterials Electronically Scanning Array (MESA™). Released as a developer’s kit, MESA-K-DEV is designed to give end customers and integrators the ability to test the breakthrough C-SWAP characteristics and capabilities of MESA-based radar. MESA-K-DEV is evocative of a number of breakthrough future applications, including: Airborne Detect and Avoid radars on small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), dramatically enhanced autonomous vehicle radars, security radars capable of drone detection, and many others.
“MESA-K-DEV is like no other radar ever produced,” said Eben Frankenberg, founder and CEO of Echodyne. “The C-SWAP characteristics are completely unparalleled for a true electronically scanning radar. Phased array radars – long the radar of choice for defense applications – are way too complex, expensive, bulky and heavy for commercial applications and even for many military applications. MESA makes high performance radar practical for commercial applications and platforms never before thought possible.”
Specifications of MESA-K-DEV
Echodyne’s MESA-K-DEV operates at K-band and has a broad field of view (±60° in azimuth and ±40° in elevation), which it can scan rapidly with sub-microsecond beam switching speed. The radar unit is a mere 22 x 7.5 x 2.5 cm, with a total weight of only 820 grams. Completely self-contained, MESA-K-DEV includes the metamaterial array, the array control driver circuitry, the beam steering computer, and a fully integrated transceiver and processors. The aperture is controlled through a simple USB Type C interface and requires only a single +7 to +28V DC source to operate. MESA-K-DEV consumes ~20W in operation and <1W in standby. Convective cooling provided by the aluminum housing allows the unit to operate in temperatures from -40 to +75C.
In a separate release today, Echodyne also announced the development of its next radar specifically designed for Airborne Detect and Avoid for small to medium sized UAS. The Airborne Detect and Avoid radar, scheduled for release at the end of 2016, will be an evolution of MESA-K-DEV and an important technological milestone to support beyond visual line of sight operations for small UAS.
Unlike conventional mechanical apertures that steer a radar beam using motorized gimbals, Echodyne’s MESA requires no moving parts to steer its beam. And unlike Phased Array radars or Active Electronically Scanning Array radars that require complicated and expensive transmit/receive modules – including phase shifters, amplifiers, circulators, and low noise amplifiers behind every single antenna element – MESA uses a vastly simpler metamaterials architecture. The net effect of this simplified architecture is dramatically lower cost, size, weight and power.
Echodyne is reinventing the way the world uses radar by creating high performance electronically scanning radars with ultra-low C-SWAP (cost, size, weight, and power). Echodyne’s patented Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) offers disruptive capabilities for existing radar applications, and enables new categories of radars never before thought possible such as small, lightweight radars for UAVs, robots, autonomous vehicles, and security that work well even when environmental conditions are less than ideal (e.g., in rain, snow, fog, dust, darkness, etc.). Echodyne is a privately held company backed by Bill Gates, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, and The Kresge Foundation, among others.
Bellevue, WA – Echodyne Corp today announced limited availability of its first metamaterials electronically scanning array (MESA) for radar applications. Echodyne’s MESA makes high performance radar far easier to deploy by lowering both the cost and weight by up to 10 or more times while decreasing the size of the antenna by up to 5 or more times over traditional electronically scanned arrays. The first product from Echodyne, a metamaterials electronically scanning array for X-band (MESA X-EVU) is now available for partners and integrators interested in evaluating MESA for radar systems in a variety of commercial markets including maritime, aviation, and surveillance/security among others.
“We are very pleased with the early reception of MESA-X-EVU by key partners and are excited to be able to offer more units to qualified partners and integrators,” said Eben Frankenberg, founder and CEO of Echodyne. “Metamaterials based radar has the opportunity to not only change how traditional, heavy, expensive radar systems are deployed but can open up new markets for advanced radar that were never before thought possible because of the cost, size and weight of traditional electronically scanned arrays.”
Echodyne’s MESA X-EVU combines ultra-low C-SWAP (cost, size, weight, and power) with ultra-fast beam steering (sub-microsecond) in an electronically scanning array that can be integrated into new or existing radar systems.
Unlike conventional mechanical apertures which steer a radar beam using motorized gimbals, Echodyne’s MESA requires no moving parts to steer its beam. And unlike Phased Array radars or Active Electronically Scanning Array (AESA) radars that use complicated, expensive, and inefficient transmit/receive modules which include phase shifters, amplifiers, circulators, and low noise amplifiers behind every single antenna element, MESA uses a vastly simpler metamaterials architecture. The net effect of this simplified architecture is dramatically lower cost, size, weight and power.
Echodyne’s MESA-X-EVU operates at X-band and has a broad field of view (±50° in azimuth and ±45° in elevation) which it can scan very rapidly given its sub-microsecond beam switching speed. The MESA-X-EVU subsystem includes the metamaterial array, the array control driver circuitry, and the beam steering computer. Fully assembled without packaging, the subsystem is a mere 50 x 18 x 2.5 cm with a total weight of only 1.4 kg. While this size and weight already demonstrates a vast improvement over traditional electronically scanning arrays, Echodyne will be decreasing this even further as the company optimizes the technology for various implementations. The aperture is controlled through a simple USB 2.0 interface and requires only a single +12 DC source to operate. Integrators and radar manufacturers interested in evaluating MESA-X-EVU can connect their own Pulsed or FMCW transceivers through a single coax SMA port.
Echodyne has produced a limited number of MESA-X-EVU to share with qualified partners and integrators. Companies interested in learning more about Echodyne MESA generally, and MESA-X-EVU specifically should contact Echodyne directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Echodyne is reinventing the way the world uses radar by creating high performance electronically scanning radars with ultra-low C-SWAP (cost, size, weight, and power). Echodyne’s patented Metamaterial Electronically Scanning Array (MESA) offers disruptive capabilities for existing radar applications, and enables new categories of radars never before thought possible such as small, lightweight radars for UAVs, robots, autonomous vehicles, and security that work well even when environmental conditions are less than ideal (e.g. in rain, snow, fog, dust, darkness, etc.) Echodyne is a privately held company backed by Bill Gates, Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, and The Kresge Foundation, among others.
Media Contact: Erika Shaffer, email@example.com, 206-972-5514
The Bellevue company is using “metamaterial” engineering to develop a small, relatively low-cost radar for commercial use.
In a nondescript office tucked near Highway 520 in Bellevue, a couple dozen physicists and engineers think they have reached what may be the biggest breakthrough in commercial radar in a generation.
The company, Echodyne, shipped its first radar-array prototype to a prospective partner in July. It’s currently offering a handful more devices for other radar makers to evaluate.
Better, smaller and cheaper situational awareness will fuel the next leap forward in the commercial drone industry.
The idea of skies filled with autonomous flying robots that change the way people interact with the world has grown in popularity amongst futurists and entrepreneurs alike. Largely absent from the public conversation is a discussion about the inherent shortcomings in unmanned aerial systems: namely that without a human pilot aerial vehicles are flying blind.
Read the rest of the article at Fortune.com »
Powerful radar, mostly limited to the military, could soon be cheap enough for cars and consumer drones to use.
Plenty of people play with small drone aircraft in their backyards these days. Tom Driscoll, cofounder and chief technology officer of a startup called Echodyne may be the only one whose quadcopter packs the kind of sophisticated radar used on fighter jets. “We flew it around, did some collision avoidance, and locked onto one of our engineers and followed him around my backyard,” says Driscoll.
Radar instruments that can be used that way are normally bulky and extremely expensive. Echodyne is working on a device that is compact and cheap enough to be used widely.
Plastics. Computers. Metamaterials?Almost half a century after Dustin Hoffman was taken aside in “The Graduate” and given the famous “one word” line about the future, it may be time to update the script again. And metamaterials appear to have the same potential to transform entire industries. Over the past 15 years or so, scientists have learned how to construct materials that bend light waves, as well as radar, radio, sound and even seismic waves, in ways that do not naturally occur.
First theorized in 1967 by the Russian physicist Victor Veselago and invented in 1999 by a group led by the physicist David R. Smith, the new design approach was first seen as a curiosity that hinted at science fiction applications like invisibility cloaks.
But today, researchers have gained a better understanding of the science and are generating innovations in an array of fields, including radio antennas, radar, cosmetics, soundproofing and walls that help protect against earthquakes and tsunamis.
Echodyne, a secretive Seattle-area startup company backed by investors including Bill Gates and Paul Allen, is developing a novel, high-performance radar suitable for drones, robots, and self-driving cars. The technology could potentially allow such vehicles to operate independently in a range of conditions.
Bill Gates and Madrona Venture Group are leading a $15 million investment in a new company called Echodyne, which is developing secretive new radar technology based on artificial materials that can manipulate and control electromagnetic radiation.
Company Spins Out from Intellectual Ventures to Bring Metamaterials-Based Radar Systems to Market
Bellevue, WA – December 19, 2014 – Echodyne Corp announced today its initial round of funding led by Bill Gates and Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Vulcan Capital, Lux Capital, The Kresge Foundation, and others. The fourth spin-out from Intellectual Ventures (IV), Echodyne will bring to market radar products based on metamaterials technology invented by IV in collaboration with Duke University and the University of California at San Diego. The company is led by co-founders Eben Frankenberg (CEO) and Tom Driscoll (CTO).
“Echodyne’s innovative use of metamaterials holds great promise for a wide range of new radar applications,” said Bill Gates. “I’ve worked with Eben for almost a decade and I’m looking forward to what Echodyne will accomplish with his leadership.”
Echodyne is the exclusive licensee of IV’s metamaterials technology for radar applications and represents the third spin-out from IV based on metamaterials, which are artificially structured materials used to control and manipulate a range of physical phenomena including electromagnetic radiation.
“The launch of Echodyne is an exciting new proof point for our Metamaterials Commercialization Center and IV will continue to invest accordingly in this very promising space,” said Nathan Myhrvold, CEO of Intellectual Ventures. “I cannot imagine a better founding team for Echodyne than Eben – a leader who’s earned my utmost trust and respect, and Tom – a gifted technologist steeped in metamaterials.”
Frankenberg, Echodyne’s CEO, played a crucial role at IV for nearly a decade leading the company’s efforts to create and spin-out companies, incubating and overseeing IV’s Lab and Global Good, and serving five years as IV’s COO. Prior to IV, Frankenberg spent nine years leading sales, marketing, and business development for Onyx Software as it grew from a basement start-up to more than 800 people and a NASDAQ listing. Frankenberg started out as a scientist with an MS in Geophysics from Stanford University and a BA from Dartmouth College.
“I’m very excited about the market potential for our breakthrough metamaterials-based radars. They stand to be disruptive to existing radar markets, but also enabling for whole new categories of radars never before contemplated or thought possible,” said Frankenberg. “I’m grateful to our investors, who share our vision, to IV for inventing and incubating the technology, and to commercial and government customers and partners who are giving us a positive and welcome reception.”
Co-founder and CTO, Tom Driscoll has been at the forefront of metamaterials technology for more than a decade. Most recently he was the Director of the IV Metamaterials Commercialization Center where he oversaw multiple research and development projects including the initial work in radar. Prior to that, Driscoll held research roles at Duke University, where he helped pioneer the technology behind IV’s second metamaterials spin-out, and at the University of California, San Diego. Driscoll holds a PhD in Physics from UCSD.
“Madrona loves to invest in great entrepreneurs who are developing novel and innovative technology and attacking huge markets. Echodyne truly embodies all of these attributes. We are thrilled to be working with Eben and Tom, who are world-class, and bring a tremendous mix of product, business and research rigor and experiences to bear in building Echodyne,” said Tim Porter, Managing Director of Madrona Venture Group and Echodyne board member.
About Echodyne Corp
Echodyne (www.echodyne.com) is bringing to market metamaterials-based radar products. The company is privately held and headquartered in Bellevue, WA.
About Madrona Venture Group
Madrona (www.madrona.com) has been investing in early-stage technology companies in the Pacific Northwest since 1995 and has been privileged to play a role in some of the region’s most successful technology ventures. The firm invests predominantly in seed and Series A rounds across the information technology spectrum, including consumer Internet, commercial software and services, digital media and advertising, networking and cloud computing, and mobile. Madrona manages approximately $1 billion and was an early investor in companies such as Amazon.com, Apptio, Isilon Systems, Extrahop, and Redfin.
About Intellectual Ventures
Founded in 2000, Intellectual Ventures (IV) is the global leader in the business of invention. IV collaborates with leading inventors, partners with pioneering companies and invests both expertise and capital in the process of invention. IV’s mission is to energize and streamline an invention economy that will drive innovation around the world. For more on IV’s other spin-outs, please visit www.intellectualventures.com/inventions-patents/spinouts-programs/
Erika Shaffer, Erika@madrona.com, 206-674-6330