As we reach the end of 2023, Vigilant Aerospace is taking a moment to reflect on what has been a historic period for the autonomous systems industry and a momentous year for the company.
After waiting several years for signs that the UAS and AAM industry were reaching maturity and ready to expand, we have seen an explosion of growth and progress this year. From regulatory changes to the launch of new, impactful programs, there have been major milestones all across the industry, and Vigilant has been extremely fortunate to find itself at the forefront of change and innovation.
Our theme for the year was “There’s no autonomy without autonomous safety.”
Too often, we have observed new products, vehicles and programs launch touting their “autonomy” but not including effective, tested, standards-compliant autonomous safety systems. While the industry has continued to mature and grow, the lack of serious autonomous safety systems remains a major problem. But there are signs that this is finally changing.
2023 was the year that influential end-users, like the US Air Force and the US Army, recognized the problem and have tapped the industry vanguard, including Vigilant Aerospace, to fill the gap.
2023 was an epic, milestone year for the company with numerous major projects and contracts awarded. But 2024 is shaping up to be a monster year with numerous field tests, demo flights, integration programs and deployments on the horizon.
As we reach the end of 2023, I could not be prouder of what the Vigilant team has accomplished in the midst of this whirlwind. We have stayed focused and driven to deliver product innovation, day after day, and to ignore the hype.
Real aviation safety isn’t a tag line in a pitch deck or a marketing blurb. It is years of demanding lab work and gritty field work leading to systems that really function when they are needed most.
Here are just a few of the company’s notable accomplishments and events from 2023:
- Vigilant was awarded the contract to develop the detect-and-avoid safety system for the US Air Force’s new long-endurance drone. You can read about the project here: Vigilant Aerospace Awarded Contract to Develop Detect-and-Avoid System for the US Air Force’s New Long-Endurance UAS – Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc.
- This important project received industry press coverage:
- Vigilant Aerospace secures military contract to develop detect-and-avoid system – GPS World
- Vigilant Aerospace awarded contract for DAA in USAF operations | UASMagazine.com
- Detect-and-Avoid Contract Awarded for Long-Endurance Drone – Defense Advancement
- Detect-and-Avoid System Contract for New Long-Endurance UAS | Unmanned Systems Technology
- Vigilant Aerospace Awarded Contract to Develop USAF DAA System – cuashub.com
- We successfully completed our FlightHorizon COMMANDER pilot program with the USAF 49th Operating Group at Holloman AFB to track and provide safety and flight logging for their MQ-9 Reaper RPA fleet. You can read about one activity of that project here: Vigilant Aerospace Supports RIMPAC 22 Maritime Exercise with FlightHorizon COMMANDER for Historic UAS Flights – Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc.
- The company continued to serve as the commercial partner for the NASA ULI WindMap project (project briefing) and began developing plans for flight testing and demonstrations to culminate in late 2024. New capabilities to utilize localized weather radar data and to identify and help pilots to avoid micro-wind and weather hazards are being developed as a part of the project. You can learn more here: Video: NASA ULI WindMap Project Vigilant Aerospace Briefing – Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc.
- NASA Armstrong featured our work with them in their annual research summary, including an article about “Enhanced ADS-B System for Supersonic Aircraft” on page 19 and “NASA Armstrong Tech Wins NASA’s Commercial Innovation of the Year Award” on page 21. Read the whole thing here: Armstrong Flight Research Center Research, Technology, and Engineering Report (nasa.gov)
- The FAA published our research report from our FAA-sponsored R&D detect-and-avoid project with ACUASI at University Alaska – Fairbanks. Read the full report here: Enabling Unmanned Aircraft Systems Beyond Visual Line-of-Sight Flight Operations with FlightHorizon Detect-and-Avoid and Air Traffic Situational Awareness System
- Our CEO was invited to make the presentation for the FAA’s mid-year agency-wide New and Emerging Aviation Technology (NEAT) seminar in June 2023 to educate regulators about detect-and-avoid, collision avoidance for AAM, emerging UTM functions and about the FlightHorizon product.
- We made major technical updates to FlightHorizon including releasing the fully online version with the launch of FlightHorizon UTM for selected partners. Get in touch if you are interested!
- We cemented our partnership with Pierce Aerospace for Remote ID integration into FlightHorizon, including into FlightHorizon UTM, and have multiple pilot projects scheduled for 2024, including at airports, urban centers and critical infrastructure locations.
- We continued as a member of ASTM F38 and participated in the development of ASTM’s new detect-and-avoid standard. Read more here: ASTM F3442
- We were named Oklahoma’s Aerospace Innovator of the Year by 405 Magazine. Read the story here: Aerospace Innovator of the Year 2023 – Vigilant Aerospace – 405 Business
- We continued to educate the industry with presentations at AUVSI XPONENTIAL, UAS Summit & Expo, Tulsa Regional Advanced Mobility Summit, and others:
- Vigilant Aerospace CEO Featured in UAS Magazine Podcast Ahead of UAS Summit & Expo Panel Appearance – Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc.
- XPONENTIAL 2023: Session: Integration of Multi-Sensor Active Detect-and-Avoid Systems with UTM Towards a Comprehensive Safety System Enabling UAM / AAM
- 2023 TRAM Summit – Splash (splashthat.com)
- We continued in 2023 to serve as a board member, advisor and educator for multiple regional and national UAS and Advanced Air Mobility organizations:
- Advanced Air Mobility | Tulsa Innovation Labs
- Leadership – National Defense Industry Association Northern Tier Chapter
- Industry Advisory Council · UAS Cluster Initiative
- Vigilant Director Providing Leadership to AUVSI Great Plains with New Board of Directors Appointment – Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc.
- The company was awarded another contract by the USAF with the OSU Counter-UAS Center of Excellence to begin development of a counter-UAS version of our software called FlightHorizon DEFENDER. More information on this will be published in 2024.
- The company completed a project with a major international automaker to design the safety system for their new air taxi. More to come about this project in 2024.
- Finally, we launched a sustained hiring campaign to expand our team, including hiring multiple new, highly qualified team members. We will be hiring additional staff in 2024. Check out the latest open position here: Software Developer – Java, Spring, IoT, Sensors, Drones – On-site – Oklahoma City
A big thank you to our partners and customers at Echodyne, Botlink, DeTect, Pierce Aerospace, ResilienX, MAAP, ACUASI, NPUASTS, AFWERX, AFRL, NASA, FAA UAS Integration Office, OSU’s OAIRE, TIL, ODAA, NDIA, ODIA, the Droneport Network, the SBA’s UAS Cluster Initiative, and too many others to list.
Stay tuned! There will be many updates in 2024, including major product and project announcements! Happy New Year to you and yours and we hope you have a safe and successful start to 2024!
– Kraettli L. Epperson, CEO, Vigilant Aerospace Systems, Inc.