Echodyne, headquartered in Cochran, Washington, said it won a five-year contract of $20 million from the customs and border protection innovation team of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to expand the deployment of the company’s compact radar system and explore new applications of radar at U.S. borders and ports.
Today’s announcement marks the latest round of good news for the Seattle start-up. In 2014, the company was spun off from intelligent ventures with the support of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, madrona venture group and other investors.
Echodyne is one of several companies supported by gates that use metamaterials, an electronic array that can “manipulate” a flat-panel antenna without moving parts. The company has been working with the Department of Homeland Security and industrial partners to adjust its radar system to monitor movement in border areas, including UAV flights.
Echodyne said in a press release that 30 echoguard radar systems have been delivered under the contract of uncertain delivery and uncertain quantity.
Eben Frankenberg, CEO of echodyne, said: “the award of this contract verifies our leading position in compact and portable ESA (electronically scanned array) radar system, which can improve intelligence and surveillance capabilities in the most challenging defense and homeland security applications.”.
Frankenberg told geekwire echoguard that he had been doing “great work”
“We have anti drone radar in many different places,” he said. “One is the UAV detection contract for the Canadian federal prison system, and then there are many U.S. law enforcement agencies… The Department of homeland security, the coast guard, and some personnel of the Department of defense.”
Now, echodyne is expanding its product line to introduce a radar system called echoshield.
“It’s much more complex than the current radar. You want to have more functions in the long-range radar, but not in the short-range radar,” Frankenberg said. “The radar will be used in many of the same applications, just scanning larger volumes and providing more advanced warnings to people.”
These applications are not limited to law enforcement and national security.
“We just did a test recently and deployed about 12 radars around Fort Worth in Dallas,” Frankenberg said. “We were studying the airspace and the large corridor that Baird company wanted to drive an autopilot car. They wanted to ensure that there was no manned aircraft anywhere in this great corridor. This new radar will help these applications.”
He said echoshield’s range is about three times that of echoguard. For example, smaller radars can usually track four DJI phantom 4 helicopters within a range of 1 km, but the new radar expands the range to 3 km.
In the early days of echodyne, the company focused on building radar systems small enough to be installed on UAVs as navigation aids. But Frankenberg admits that he and his team have turned to anti UAV applications, in part because of FAA regulatory procedures.
“We still have many customers flying our radar, conducting flight tests and reporting data to the FAA,” he said. “But as you know, the FAA has not granted extensive rights to commercial UAV operators, so we just continue to wait for the market to really open.”