Vigilant Aerospace Systems, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, and Cimarron Capital Partners were honored with the award for Outstanding Commercialization Success by the Federal Labs Consortium (FLC) Far West Region at an awards ceremony in September 2016 for the technology transfer effort made to bring FlightHorizon to market.
FLC Outstanding Commercialization Success
According to the FLC, “the annual Outstanding Commercialization Success award recognizes the efforts of an FLC laboratory technology transfer professional (or team) who has demonstrated outstanding work transferring a technology in a manner significantly over and above what was called for in the normal course of their work.”
The FLC is a formally chartered organization, mandated by Congress to promote, educate and facilitate technology transfer among more than 300 federal laboratories, research centers and agencies. According to the FLC’s charter, the organizations goal is to “ensure the best use of taxpayers’ contributions to research and development (R&D) conducted at federal labs through the acceleration of the work into the market through collaborative partnerships with non-federal organizations such as private businesses, academia, and state and local governments.”
NASA Developed Avionics Technology
The patented NASA Sense-and-Avoid System with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Avionics for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) is a set of processes and algorithms built into software that use aircraft transponder data to detect, track and avoid collisions between aircraft. Developed by a team led by Dr. Ricardo Arteaga at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA, the system uses a combination of hardware and software to deliver air traffic visualization, alerts, collision warnings and avoidance commands to pilots and autopilots. The system improves air safety and is a key component in allowing unmanned aircraft to join manned aircraft in the national airspace.
The heart of the NASA system is an advanced sense-and-avoid algorithm specifically designed for the short-term trajectories typically associated with UAS. When a collision risk is identified, the algorithm automatically begins finding the safest and most efficient solution to avoid the other aircraft and then instructs the pilot or autopilot to follow the new course. If the plane posing the collision threat changes its flight path during this time, the algorithm automatically changes the avoidance commands, continually keeping the aircraft on a clear path. Once the risk has been avoided, the algorithm instructs the aircraft to return to its previous course.
Discovery and Technology Transfer
Recognizing the potential impact NASA’s technology could have on the aviation industry, Cimarron Capital Partners launched Vigilant Aerospace Systems to commercialize the innovation in late 2014. The new company applied for an exclusive civilian license to the patent and technology, which was announced in the Federal Register on September 23, 2015. The license was signed by Vigilant Aerospace CEO Kraettli L. Epperson on February 25, 2016.
According to the FLC, “Technology Transfer is the process by which existing knowledge, facilities, or capabilities developed under federal R&D funding are utilized to fulfill public and private needs. Every year, billions of American taxpayer dollars go into funding research and development (R&D) at our federal laboratories, with the intent being for those innovations to return their investment and move from the laboratory to the marketplace, thereby boosting our economy.”
This technology is now part of the Vigilant Aerospace Systems’ FlightHorizon product suite, which provides synthetic cockpit views (i.e., simulations of the view from the cockpit of an unmanned aircraft), air traffic alerts, detect-and-avoid commands, air traffic control areas, weather data, and other functions that improve flight safety and situational awareness for all kinds of aircraft.
About the Federal Labs Consortium (FLC)
From the website:
“The FLC was organized in 1974 and formally chartered by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 to promote and strengthen technology transfer nationwide. Today, more than 300 federal laboratories, facilities and research centers and their parent agencies make up the FLC community. Members of the FLC community include world–renowned scientists, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, academia, laboratory personnel, and T2 professionals.”
Pictured Above (from left to right):
- Gerald “Jerry” Budd, Advanced Planning and Partnerships Development Manager, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
- Janeya Griffin, Technology Transfer Specialist, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
- Dr. Ricardo Arteaga, Aerospace Engineer, NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
- Robert Heard, Board Chairman & Co-Founder, Vigilant Aerospace Systems & Managing Director and Founder, Cimarron Capital Partners