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Coffee Talk: Steve Frey

Steve Frey is AEye’s Vice President of Business Development for Aerospace and Defense, based in the company’s Space Coast office in Florida. We recently sat down with Steve to discuss his background, his role at AEye, the challenges and opportunities he sees in aerospace and defense, and how AEye is uniquely positioned to serve the A&D sector.

Steve Frey1. You spent much of your career at Lockheed Martin designing advanced imaging and laser systems and mission-critical defense projects. How did you come to join AEye and lead the Aerospace and Defense business?

Luis Dussan and I go way back, as we worked closely together at Lockheed Martin, developing leading-edge defense technology. Following my time at Lockheed, I worked in engineering leadership roles in the commercial, defense and space industries at FAZ Technologies, Ocean Optics and L3Harris Technologies. Even though I had recently retired, when Luis asked me to join the AEye team and open a Florida office that would focus on aerospace and defense, I couldn’t resist the opportunity.

Working in this sector is right in my wheelhouse, and I am excited about what AEye’s 4Sight™ lidar for aerospace and defense can do for Department of Defense (DoD) applications and companies. It’s a bonus to be working with Luis again and the talented team at AEye. We have engineers that are building cutting edge software-defined sensing technology that provides advanced perception where it’s needed, when it’s needed.

2. Can you tell us a bit about your role at AEye?

At AEye, I am building partnerships with DoD-type organizations, public and private aerospace entities and security companies to leverage AEye’s lidar to meet their unique requirements. For example, our software-definable scanning is one feature that enables the current generation of perception and AI software to tune the lidar to enable better object understanding. I also lead the technical team in Florida and am overseeing the build-out of the new office in Palm Bay.

3. What type of applications can AEye’s 4Sight lidar for aerospace and defense be used for?

AEye’s lidar can be used for a wide range of applications because it is adaptable. We are seeing an overall increase in lidar being adopted by government and private companies alike. Specifically, the DoD and commercial companies are looking for autonomous technology for safe helicopter take-offs, flights and landings. It’s important for helicopters to avoid wires, poles, trees, etc. while maneuvering. Incorporating lidar’s 3D sensing, with its ability to capture every obstacle in its path, is a big aid in bringing autonomous flying, as well as driving, to fruition.

Additionally, we are seeing more missions in space that require docking and rendezvous capability. Being able to grab and capture the growing amount of space debris with the proper orientation is something AEye’s software-definable lidar system, with its 3D vision and adaptability, can provide.

There is a rise in the use of drones, which are readily available to the public. The military, law enforcement and commercial companies are increasingly looking to counter-drone technology as a security measure to track drones in public air space, above crowds of people or at large events. Lidar fills the gap created by conventional sensor technologies, such as cameras and radar, by providing long-range perception in all types of environments, including smoke, rain and dust.

4. What makes AEye’s lidar for aerospace and defense important?

AEye’s adaptive lidar is critical in autonomous aerospace and defense applications because if there is an area of high importance, the system can focus in on that area, increase resolution and provide more information to the operator, allowing them to make timely decisions when seconds matter, while simultaneously having fewer people in harm’s way.

5. What’s ahead for the Florida office?

We are seeing the DoD and defense contractors seek out and take advantage of commercially developed technology. They are looking for sensing solutions, such as lidar, from private sector companies which provide better and adaptable information. Also, our software definability can lengthen the lifetime or add additional mission capability of a hardware solution – just by updating or adding software. We are actively working on collaborative partnerships that will deliver the next great technological advancement.

6. What is your favorite mode of transportation?

This is an easy one—a golf cart! I spend a lot of my free time playing golf, so my wife and I get a lot of time together out on the golf course in a cart. Chances are, if I’m not at the office, I’m in a golf cart.