Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Plextek puts micro radar on Griff heavy lifting drones

Steve Rogerson
January 14, 2020



UK engineering and design consultancy Plextek is putting micro radars and sensors on Norwegian unmanned aerial systems (UAS) specialist Griff’s heavy lifting drones.
 
Griff is developing UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) designed to carry payloads up to 250kg for a wide range of applications including moving building equipment and materials across harsh terrains such as mountainous and forested landscapes.
 
The Plextek electronic-scanning (e-scan) micro radar and software have been optimised for use on drones and other UAVs. Operating in the 60GHz mm-waveband, the e-scan radar can detect hazards such as power lines from up to 60m as well as buildings, bridges, vegetation and other objects both in front of and beneath the drone, with good range out to 300m and angular resolution.
 
It also provides day and night, all-weather sensing. And because the 60GHz band is licence exempt in most territories, the micro radar can be freely used and is unlikely to cause interference with other equipment on board the UAV or in close proximity.
 
The Plextek micro radar will let the drones fly at a pre-defined height when integrated with the Micro Pilot flight controller. A software shim layer converts the distance and azimuth information into Mavlink commands used by the flight controller to navigate with speed and safety.
 
“Plextek has established internationally recognised expertise in mm-wave radar over the last six years and is now applying its technology for the sense-and-avoid navigation of drones and other UAVs,” said Peter Doig, business development director at Plextek. “The Griff Aviation project is particularly challenging and exciting as, up until now, most drones have been used for light weight payloads and heavy lift drones require very precise and reliable flight control.”
 
Plextek is working with Griff Aviation with on-site trials in Norway ahead of putting the drones through their paces with an energy provider in Japan and a power line company in Australia.
 
“Innovation is needed to develop heavy lifting UAVs with robust systems for navigation and sensing,” said Hans Petter Forde, technical lead at Griff Aviation. “Plextek’s micro radar technology is ahead of the field and is ideal to fit our needs. We believe firmly that working together Plextek and Griff Aviation will develop a system that will set the standards for the future of UAS navigation.”
 
Located in Sykkylven near the city Aalesund in Norway, Griff Aviation was founded in 2015 and employs 20 people.
 
Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs products, systems and services in a diverse range of industries including defence, security, medical, healthcare and wireless communications.