If you’re building a drone, one of the most in-demand features it should include is a detect and avoid system. Even sub-$500 camera drones these days have some degree of obstacle avoidance — making it a nearly-mandatory feature for professional-grade drones. And the Iris Automation Casia X promises to provide exactly that.
Iris Automation is based in San Francisco, Calif. and is working on computer vision technology to develop advanced detection systems. And one of its major products, the Casia X, will be ready to ship beginning May 21. Casia X is an onboard multi-camera detect and avoid (DAA) system designed to be integrated into commercial drones. With it, your drone will have a full 360° radial detection capability using computer vision technology. That detect-and-avoid capability will inevitably be useful in scaling widespread drone delivery, particularly flights beyond the operator’s line of sight.
The Casia X expands on — and improves — Iris Automation’s existing product line. Here are among the major changes to expect in the Casia X versus the original Casia:
- Increased probability of detection performance by 7% and a 12X reduction in false detections
- Improved software reliability, for higher overall system uptime.
- A new architecture to support camera configurations from one to six units to provide flexibility in weight and field of view.
- Visual aircraft encounter replay tooling and log files to help analyze detections and air risk.
How it works
Casia is a plug-and-play add-on to pretty much any drone. It’s an-ultra low, C-SWaP, plug-and-play, modular system designed to be added on industrial-focused drones, whether it’s a multi-rotors, fixed wings or EVTOL drone.
Of course, it needs to integrate with the drone’s autopilot software, but luckily it integrates with the most popular commercially available autopilot software. It integrates with open source and Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) autopilot systems, including:
- Piccolo Cloud Cap Technology
- PX4 Autopilot
From there, the Casia system can be configured specifically to your drone flight requirements, with modifications available in terms of adjustable cameras, module housing options, multiple data interfaces and an open software API (in case, perhaps you want to add a mechanism for deliveries, or you need a thermal camera rather than a standard visual camera).
Casia X and what it means for UTM
Technology like what we’re seeing in Casia X is considered vital to allowing drones to fly outside of the operator’s line of sight. After all, if the pilot can’t see what’s near the drone to ensure it doesn’t fly into a rough telephone poll, then the drone sure as well better be able to. And once that technology is ready to go, then we should be ready to implement UAS Traffic Management (UTM) systems (basically air traffic control for drones.
Casia already collaborates with drone management platforms including:
- Soarizon by Thales
In fact, Casia is also being tested as part of several government-sponsored programs, including —in the U.S. — the Federal Aviation Administration’s BEYOND program. The BEYOND program was launched by the FAA in October 2020 as a grouping of eight state, local and tribal governments tasked with partnering with private companies (like Iris). Together, the governments + private companies are collecting data to develop performance-based standards, collecting and addressing community feedback and understanding the societal and community benefits, and studying how it can streamline the approval processes for UAS integration. That information is then transmitted to the FAA, which will be used to inform future drone regulation. As part of the BEYOND Program, Iris has so far partnered with four lead participants – the City of Reno, Kansas Dept of Transportation, University of Alaska Fairbanks (ACUASI) and the Choctaw Nation.
Who else is using Casia X?
Outside of programs like BEYOND, Casia X is also used by companies like drone industrial inspection company AviSight, which requires obstacle detection for its field testing of long linear inspection operations.
“Our customers understand that unmanned missions can dramatically enhance efficiencies, reduce costs and improve the overall safety of their infrastructure maintenance and environmental monitoring programs,” said William O’Donnell, director of operations at AviSight, in a prepared statement. “Technologies like Casia provide us with additional layers of safety, helping us advance toward beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations, in close collaboration with federal regulators invested in safe airspace integration.”
Beyond shipping the Casia X, Iris has been on a huge tear over the past 12 months. Last summer, Iris was a nominee in the AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards 2020. And over the past winter, the company announced $13 million in Series B venture capital funding. And at the beginning of 2021, Iris was invited to join the World Economic Forum Global Innovators community.