Echodyne Corp announced 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.