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AEye: Coming full circle – bringing off-the-shelf commercial innovations back to their Aerospace and Defense origins


By Blair LaCorte –

It is no surprise that AEye is capturing the attention of aerospace and defense markets. Our software-definable, ultra-high-performance lidar system is providing them with long-desired sensor capabilities and performance – and we are delivering this performance at a fraction of their expected investment by utilizing standard modular off-the-shelf components.

When AEye’s Chief Technology Officer Luis Dussan founded AEye in 2013, he did so based on principles he learned at Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and NASA while designing mission-critical sensing and targeting systems for spacecraft and fighter jets that searched for, identified, and tracked incoming threats.

Luis realized that a self-driving car or any vehicle designed to have some degree of autonomy faces a similar challenge: it must be able to see, classify, and respond to an object— whether it’s a parked car or a child crossing the street – in real time and before it’s too late. Just as radar and cameras had migrated to commercial applications it was time for lidar-driven perception systems to follow the same play book!

While Luis initially set out to use military principles and lidar to create the highest performing perception system for autonomous applications in automotive and industrial markets, he also set out to do this with the automotive-grade off-the-shelf components in custom AEye designs that can be reliably manufactured at scale using standard processes to drive down costs.

The result is AEye’s 4Sight™ Intelligent Sensing Platform. 4Sight was designed, from the get-go, to leverage military-grade sensing capabilities for any autonomous application. In doing so, it stands alone as the only lidar uniquely suited for aerospace and defense, providing real-time adaptive vision exactly where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

In action, our software-definable 4Sight™ lidar is unique in the industry – capable of long-range detection exceeding one kilometer – up to 10 kilometers with custom optics. And, due to its unique, bi-static architecture, is adaptive enough to track a 45-caliber bullet at over 20,000 frames per second.

Today’s announcement of AEye’s groundbreaking partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, the premier digital integrator for the Department of Defense, brings Luis’ vision full circle, introducing commercial “off-the-shelf” advancements that can meet the rigorous performance requirements of the aerospace and defense markets.

We are collaborating with Booz Allen Hamilton to optimize its real-time embedded processor perception stack. This aligns with Booz Allen’s digital battlespace vision for an information-driven, fully integrated conflict space extending across all warfighting domains, enabled by technology like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and edge computing to realize information superiority and achieve overmatch.

So today marks a comfortable homecoming for AEye. In addition to the partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, we also announced the opening of a new office in Florida’s Melbourne-Palm Bay region, a.k.a. the “Space Coast”. This office enables our company to focus on and support AEye’s expanding opportunities in aerospace and defense, an industry that is in our DNA.

AEye’s earliest and most outspoken supporters and team members were esteemed scientists and engineers from NASA, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, the U.S. Air Force, and DARPA. AEye has a proud, strong connection to the U.S. Military, and as a company, we strive to do everything in our power to stand with and support those in uniform and their families through companywide efforts led by the AEye Foundation.

Recent AEye employee events included packing care packages with the USO and getting fit, while raising money during the US Navy Seal Kids Challenge, which helps military families while their parents are deployed. It is also why we’ve borrowed military traditions to celebrate each other at the office, such as our yearly Challenge Coin Ceremony where, as CEO, I have the great privilege to shake the hand of every member of Team AEye and thank them for a job well done.

Our new Florida office will be led by industry veteran Steve Frey, who so firmly believes in our market potential and technology that he came out of retirement to accept the role of Vice President of Business Development, Aerospace and Defense. Steve has already brought in ten other industry veterans to fill out the office’s core group. His extensive knowledge base and prior success in collaboration with our leadership make him a treasured addition to the company and a familiar, knowledgeable point of contact for partners.

And when it comes to perception sensors for aerospace and defense applications, knowing what customers need is a vital component of technology development that only comes with experience. Featuring a senior staff of tenured engineers intimately familiar with government requirements, mission objectives, and industry challenges, AEye’s aerospace and defense division is better positioned than any other in its field.

Our system’s software-definability and focus on superior quality spatial data collection provides dynamic scan patterns to be situational aware on-demand, allowing the system to focus on what matters most in the field of view. This targeted data empowers our artificial intelligence to better locate, identify and track objects over time – delivering more precise and reliable perception – crucial for helicopter wire detection; space debris identification, collection and removal; or any advanced targeting scenarios.

AEye’s 4Sight also holds a unique advantage when it comes to inclement weather. While mechanical scanners and other forms of lidar are limited in how much they can shift their scan patterns, 4Sight’s adaptive sensing capabilities allow satellites, planes, and ground vehicles to identify scenes and “hidden” objects through fog, snow, harsh sunlight, and other environmental conditions previously thought too challenging for lasers.

The aerospace and defense industry depends on advanced vision capabilities to complete mission-critical tasks. Whether monitoring a live landscape via satellite or tracking a missile, the most vital sectors of our government need to see the world clearly in real-time and with consistent accuracy. When it comes to accurate vision in a variety of elements and scenarios, the adaptive capabilities of our 4Sight lidar are unparalleled, making it the clear choice for aerospace and defense. AEye’s patented capability to communicate with other sensing modalities such as radar and cameras makes it a seamless fit in many military applications.

That is why Booz Allen Hamilton has chosen an exclusive partnership with AEye to optimize its real time embedded processor perception stack for commercial, aerospace and defense customers.

Our company mission has always been to create a smarter and safer world for everyone, which is achieved, in large part, by our proud connections to the U.S. Air Force, DARPA, NASA, and beyond. Like my dad used to say, “In order to see where we’re going, it’s important to look back at where we came from.” Today, I am honored to celebrate the future of AEye by recognizing the importance of its history and those who have played pivotal roles in building our technology, enabling us to come full circle.