Vigilant Aerospace Systems, a prominent developer of multi-sensor airspace management and collision avoidance software for drones and advanced air mobility, has secured a $500,000 grant for its collaboration with the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education (OAIRE) at Oklahoma State University. The project, totaling nearly $1 million, aims to devise a distributed version of its detect-and-avoid system.

Funded by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), this grant marks Vigilant Aerospace’s second successful award, following a previous OCAST grant in 2019. That grant facilitated collaboration with OSU to integrate new radars into its collision avoidance system.

This initiative tackles the challenges posed by the escalating presence of uncrewed aircraft in the National Airspace System. These include inspection and delivery drones, first responder drones, and larger air taxi and cargo drones. While these autonomous vehicles offer substantial societal and economic benefits, they necessitate new airspace management approaches to ensure safe integration into existing airspace and air traffic.

Vigilant Aerospace equips uncrewed aircraft with software, networked sensors, and radars, enabling them to fly safely over long distances and beyond the pilot’s visual line-of-sight (BVLOS). This capability is pivotal for ushering in the next generation of aviation.

“Vigilant Aerospace is an industry leader developing crucial technology for aviation safety right here in Oklahoma,” said Dr. Jamey Jacob, OAIRE executive director. “The ability for drones and larger autonomous vehicles to detect and avoid collisions with other aircraft is critical for the future of aviation and for multiple efforts throughout the nation. Projects like this keep Oklahoma at the forefront of the industry, while supporting innovative local businesses. This initiative has far-reaching impact as a wide range of autonomous aircraft take to the air.”

OSU and OAIRE support the project with unique capabilities including research engineers, pilots and subject matter experts, test aircraft, flights at the OSU Unmanned Aircraft Flight Station near Stillwater, and special research waivers from the FAA.

“Oklahoma continues to be a hotbed of innovation in autonomous flight, with a number of research institutions in the state already supporting this growth,” said Jennifer McGrail, Executive Director of OCAST. “This grant award brings together research and industry, helps to support innovation in the state and diversification of our economy. We look for ground-breaking initiatives, with potentially broad industry impact, and Vigilant Aerospace’s proposal fit that description.”