Bellevue company creates new drone avoidance technology

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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. 

Does the idea of self-driving cars and drones avoiding obstacles on the road and in the air boggle your mind?  Most of the current technology uses cameras and lasers and sensors -- the mounted equipment that makes autonomous cars stand out on the road.

But that technology can lose its effectiveness in fog and bad weather conditions.

That's where Bellevue-based Echodyne comes in.

The company has developed a military-grade radar technology that is smaller, lighter and less expensive than traditional radar.

A little plate mounted on a drone can detect objects up to nearly two miles away.

“With that information, it knows what to avoid. So, if I've detected a Cessna flying at me, I know the altitude of it. I know the direction and how far away it is, and how fast it's moving toward me, and I know which direction I should go,” said Echodyne CEO Eben Frankenberg.

Video shows the first-ever successful "detect and avoid radar test" on a small commercial drone.

The radar detects another drone flying into view.  It can then be programmed to avoid the obstacle.

The same technology can be used on self-driving cars, too, and Echodyne has been testing it on vehicles.

But no one else in the world has mastered the radar technology like the Bellevue-based company has. As a result, it’s getting a lot of interest from all sorts of drone and autonomous car manufacturers.

The radars hit the market early next year.

Eventually, Echodyne plans to license the technology.