Boeing subsidiary HorizonX, founded a year ago, has joined other investors led by DCVC (Data Collective) in a Series A $15M funding round in Fortem Technologies, a Utah-based company founded in May 2016 which manufactures lightweight radar units carried by c-drones.
Fortem’s compact TrueView radar systems, adapted from a military version, are designed to be added to a drone in a countermeasures role, a manned helicopter, or a mobile or fixed ground station. The unit is accompanied by a software interface which is said to quickly signal intrusive or “non-cooperative” air traffic. The TrueView R20 unit for c-drones or ground-to-air use weighs 681g (1.5 lb), draws 36w, and has an Ethernet Gigaport output in JSON format for streaming detection and tracking data to other systems. The DAN-C (Detect Assistance Non-Cooperative) variant is designed for manned light aircraft, to be integrated with ADS-B avionics and enable pilots to avoid a collision. Fortem claims that a large number of mobile and/or fixed ground stations can be integrated together in a distributed radar network.
The FAA has stipulated that c-drone flight over people, at night, and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) will require improved “detect and avoid” (DAA) capabilities. Fortem claims that their micro-radar solution is superior to RF scanning and optical methods for airspace awareness.
The company has demonstrated a countermeasures c-drone dubbed DroneHunter, said to be adapted from a US military version, equipped with the R20 micro-radar unit and a net gun for fouling the rotors of an unauthorized drone. Each Fortem ground control station can manage several such drones to protect a “drone no-fly zone”. However, current US FAA regulations forbid non-governmental entities from downing a drone.
Other venture investors in Fortem include Signia Venture Partners, Manifest Growth, Mubadala Investment Company, and New Ground Ventures. Last October, HorizonX invested in Near Earth Autonomy, a Pittsburgh-based spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, a company with proven expertise in autonomous flight.