Boeing's Aurora partners with maker of nickel-size drone module

By Luke Geiver | January 30, 2018

Aurora Flight Sciences is adding small drone collision avoidance technology to its suite of unmanned aircraft systems technology. Through a collaboration with California-based Socionext Inc., the Virginia-based aerospace technology developer is now working to streamline a radar flight control module the size of a nickel coin.

The RFCM can help protect consumer drones from encountering collisions during flight. John Langford, CEO of Aurora, said the partnership will help develop an excellent technology. In 2016, Socionext first unveiled its RFCM module at an industry event.

Tsutomu Nozaki, chief marketing officer of the engineering company, said the partnership will help bring the RFCM to drones used for commercial operations, including surveillance and communication, mission critical response and other experimental or exploration applications.

Comprised of a single-chip 24GHz radar with range measurement software, the module can detect multiple objects in open spaces and target distance and speed, according to Aurora. “The RFCM provides distance, warning and braking signals to the flight controller through a simple interface, allowing for integration on a wide range of drone products,” Socionext said. “When installed, the RFCM acts to prevent head-on collisions with everyday obstacles in the drone’s path.”

In November 2017, Aurora was acquired by Boeing.

RFCM Key Features:

-High-performance clutter cancellation function for preventing direct leakage of transmission wave, enabling highly accurate motion sensing

-Automatic components and temperature adjustment functions for detecting variation in transmission power, receiver gain, and other parameters

The 24GHz radar features the following specifications:

  • Variable frequency width: 24.15±0.1 GHz
  • Sensing mode: CW, FSKCW, FMCW (moving or stationary)
  • Transmission Power: 0.8mW
  • Detection of motion direction: Up to 220 km/h
  • Fast frequency pull-in: 100 µs
  • Automatic adjustment: Built-in initial adjustment function (e.g., adjustment of RC for filter)
  • Power supply voltage: 2.5V
  • Current consumption: 200mA
  • Module size: 12mm x 7mm x 1mm