Vigilant Aerospace awarded OCAST (Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education) grant to develop Distributed Airspace Management System

Partners with Oklahoma State University to develop safe uncrewed aircraft traffic management capabilities

Vigilant Aerospace Systems, the leading developer of multi-sensor airspace management and collision avoidance software for drones and advanced air mobility, has been awarded a $500,000 grant as part of a nearly $1 million project to work with the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education (OAIRE) at Oklahoma State University to develop a distributed version of its detect-and-avoid system.

The grant is provided by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). Vigilant Aerospace also won an OCAST grant in 2019 to work with OSU integrating new radars into its collision avoidance system.

The project addresses the challenges posed by the increasing number of uncrewed aircraft operating in the National Airspace System, including inspection and delivery drones, first responder drones, and larger air taxi and cargo drones. While these autonomous vehicles offer significant societal and economic benefits, they require new airspace management paradigms to ensure safe integration into the existing airspace and air traffic.
Vigilant Aerospace provides the software and networked sensors and radars to allow uncrewed aircraft to safely fly long distances and beyond the visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) of the pilot – which is essential to enabling 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.”

The OCAST grant is provided through its highly competitive Oklahoma Applied Research Support (OARS) program, which supports businesses developing innovations and technologies that create new jobs and diversify Oklahoma’s economy.

The project also received support from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA) as part of the $38.2 million Build Back Better grant awarded to a Tulsa-based coalition to support new aerospace initiatives in Oklahoma. Projects include the Skyway Range Flight Corridor, a 114 nautical mile drone corridor and one of the most ambitious advanced air mobility projects in the nation. The new corridor serves as the perfect platform for Vigilant’s distributed airspace management system to enable true BVLOS flight.

“Working with OSU helps to speed our R&D and provide the Skyway Range Flight Corridor with the most advanced airspace management system in the nation,” said Kraettli L. Epperson, CEO of Vigilant Aerospace. “It’s an excellent example of public-private co-operation to fast-track this high-potential technology both in the region and beyond. We are grateful to our sponsors at OCAST and the EDA for their support and are excited to work with our partners at OSU with their exceptional capabilities and resources.”

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.”