DHS S&T Awards $200K to San Diego's Planck Aerosystems Inc. for Final Testing of Small Unmanned Aircraft System

Release Date: August 29, 2019


S&T Public Affairs, 202-254-2385

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) awarded Planck Aerosystems, Inc. of San Diego, California, $200,000 to begin testing its autonomous small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) in operational settings.

Planck received its award as part of S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Planck’s system capability enables a sUAS to launch from and land on the bed of a moving vehicle, in addition to providing fully autonomous navigation coupled with a securing mechanism, advanced computer vision capabilities, and customized communications interfaces.

Through a combination of integrated technologies, including full-motion video, automatic target detection and geolocation, Planck seeks to provide CBP agents with a portable, ruggedized detection system that provides real-time situational awareness in the field.

“S&T is looking for technologies to enhance the efficacy of CBP patrols while simultaneously increasing the safety of patrolling agents,” said SVIP Managing Director Melissa Oh. “We look forward to the ways Planck will further refine its technology in support of this homeland security mission.”

In this fourth phase of SVIP, Planck will focus on functional usability improvements, such as improving user interfaces and increasing nighttime functionality.


Planck Aerosystems Awarded DOD Contract for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

San Diego Based Company to Deliver UAS Mobile Tethered Sensor Platform for US Military Tactical Vehicles

SAN DIEGO, CA, August 23, 2019 – Planck Aerosystems (Planck Aero) was awarded a contract valued over $2M by the United States Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO) to produce mobile tethered unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for integration onto tactical ground vehicles.

The mobile tethered UAS leverages Planck Aero’s autonomy and vision-guided navigation technology, which is ideally suited for flying from moving platforms, GPS-denied operation, and target detection & tracking. Planck’s Autonomous Control Engine (ACE™) technology unlocks the capability for rapid launch and recovery of UAS while on the move. This technology was built, tested, and refined by Planck’s team of robotics and aviation experts over many years. Existing unmanned aircraft systems use global positioning and not capable of autonomous operation from moving vehicles.

Planck Aero’s autonomy solutions have been integrated into several different unmanned aircraft platforms, providing push-button takeoff and precision landing from confined spaces, as well as from moving vehicles and vessels on land or at sea.

“From the beginning, Planck has been focused on developing and deploying the technologies necessary to provide mobile users with actionable, real-time situational awareness,” said Josh Wells, Planck Aero’s CEO. “This effort will enable us to deploy technology into the hands of those who need it the most – and quickly. We’re excited about moving forward with this effort, and to be able to work with the customer to the benefit of those on the tip of the spear.”

This contract with CTTSO is in addition to Planck Aero’s existing UAS autonomy and computer vision programs with the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, as well as work with international partners in applications such as oil spill response, tracking endangered whale species, and offshore asset inspection.


The CTTSO identifies and develops capabilities to combat terrorism and irregular adversaries and to deliver these capabilities to DoD components and interagency partners through rapid research and development, advanced studies and technical innovation, and provision of support to U.S. military operations.

About Planck Aerosystems

Planck Aero is a leader in unmanned aircraft autonomy. Through computer vision, artificial intelligence, and advanced control systems, Planck Aero delivers next generation capabilities for UAS operations, enabling government agencies and commercial partners to do more with less. Planck’s intelligent navigation solutions unlock new capabilities for surveillance, reconnaissance, real-time situational awareness, and force protection. Planck Aero is based in San Diego.

Planck Aerosystems wins Defense Innovation Voucher Program Grand Prize

San Diego – Planck Aerosystems, a technology company that develops specialized drone technology, was awarded a $25,000 voucher as part of its participation in the inaugural Defense Innovation Voucher Program (DIV) Grand Prize Pitch. Launched in 2018 to help small and mid-sized defense companies in San Diego scale, the DIV Program worked directly with 15 local defense companies throughout 2018-2019, providing strategic boot camps and business consulting services via an initial $15,000 grant to aid in strengthening and expanding company operations.

“Our local defense economy supports one in five jobs, and small businesses represent 98 percent of total companies in our region,” said Mark Cafferty, president & CEO, San Diego Regional EDC. “This is why EDC is committed to building programs that promote defense innovation and build resiliency in small and mid-sized businesses.”

Five DIV companies were chosen to participate in the DIV Grand Prize Pitch, based on their accomplishments, goals and overall involvement in the program. The finalists were EpiSci (EpiSys Science Inc.), Fuse Integration, Inc., GET Engineering Corporation, Planck Aerosystems and Trabus Technologies.

A live voting audience and a panel of judges selected Planck Aerosystems as the winner.

“Planck is thrilled to win the Grand Prize Pitch event and be a part of DIV’s first year,” said Dave Twining, COO of Planck Aerosystems. “Thanks to San Diego Regional EDC, Booz Allen Hamilton and Propel San Diego for your guidance and support through the DIV program. We’ll be using the funds to scale our marketing efforts, which we hope will generate additional sales and investment in San Diego.”

In its inaugural year, the DIV program provided two primary benefits to chosen participants. Companies selected a pre-approved contractor to assist with services including marketing, certifications needed for government work, strategic planning, accounting compliance or lean supply chain & additive manufacturing support. Additionally, participants enrolled in a six-month-long boot camp, which provided best practices and strategies on topics ranging from contract procurement to fundraising to marketing and branding.

“We are proud to support the continued innovation that is a hallmark of the San Diego defense community,” said Jennie Brooks, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. “At Booz Allen, we empower people to change the world, and DIV’s mission helps empower and strengthen the small and mid-size businesses that are bringing an incredible range of solutions to all branches of the military.”

Managed by San Diego Regional EDC, DIV is primarily funded through Propel San Diego, a grant award provided to the City of San Diego from the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment. Additional programmatic funding for DIV is provided by Booz Allen Hamilton, the presenting sponsor.

The DIV Grand Prize Pitch event was hosted at San Diego Central Library on Thursday, May 23, with a keynote presentation by Marisa Silva, partner at Booz Allen Hamilton.

About San Diego Regional EDC

San Diego Regional EDC mobilizes business, government and civic leaders around an inclusive economic development strategy in order to connect data to decision making, maximize regional prosperity, enhance global competitiveness, and position San Diego effectively for investment and talent. sandiegobusiness.org | Twitter: @SDregionalEDC

DIV is a project funded with Community Economic Adjustment Assistance for Reductions in Defense Industry Employment funds provided by the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment to the City of San Diego.

Planck Aero partners with Empirical Systems Aerospace

Planck Aerosystems (Planck Aero) announced today a partnership with the aerospace manufacturer, Empirical Systems Aerospace, Inc. (ESAero) to support Planck’s defense and commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) business.

Under this agreement, ESAero will manufacture Planck Aero’s Group 1 Unmanned Aerial Systems, Shearwater, in the ESAero manufacturing plant in San Luis Obispo, California to support increasing demand across Planck’s customer base, both domestically and internationally. This effort will support Planck’s strategy to scale the company.

For more information: https://www.suasnews.com/2019/04/planck-aerosystems-announces-partnership-with-empirical-systems-aerospace/

Planck Aero Performs Day and Night Flight Testing and Demonstrations from Moving Ground Vehicles at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar


SAN DIEGO, CA – Planck Aerosystems (Planck Aero) recently received authorization from Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, Air Traffic Control (ATC) to test the Shearwater sUAS in controlled airspace and at night.

Planck’s Shearwater sUAS repeatedly preformed successful autonomous takeoffs and precision landings onto a moving, off-road ground vehicle with centimeter-level accuracy in complete darkness without the need for GPS or a pilot in the loop. Nighttime operations from moving vehicles represents a major step forward in the demonstrating the maturity of Planck’s vision-based navigation solution.

This is the first time that authorization has been given to a commercial UAS company to operate at MCAS Miramar’s Autonomous Vehicle Proving Ground (AVPG). On any given day or night, the airspace includes fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft performing training flights, including the C-130, V-22, CH-53E, AV- 8B, F/A-18 and F-35B.

“This type of testing is critically important to prove that small UAS can safely be operated in close proximity to a high volume of military air traffic, which will continue to be the case as small UAS become proliferated more widely with operating forces,” said Josh Wells, CEO and Co-Founder of Planck Aerosystems and former US Navy Pilot. “Through close coordination with Air Traffic Control leads from the Marine Corps, we were able to demonstrate that our technology could perform safe, autonomous missions, from moving vehicles, in national airspace - not only during the day but also at night. The team from MCAS Miramar and Marine Corps Installations Command is leaning forward and breaking down barriers to adoption of advanced new solutions that enhance capabilities for surveillance, reconnaissance, real-time situational awareness, and force protection within DOD.”

Planck Aero’s products open a new world of possibilities in UAS operations for both commercial and government organizations.

Additional information is available on the MCAS Miramar site.

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Jake McClung

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Jake McClung

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Sarah Ralph

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Sarah Ralph

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Jake McClung

Photo Credit: U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Jake McClung

AI for Whale Detection from Unmanned Aircraft

In the Summer of 2018, Planck Aero worked with the Government of Canada to automatically detect and locate endangered North Atlantic Right Whales in imagery from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Automating the process has the potential to lower cost and risk, while improving the efficiency with which the whales can be found, ultimately helping the conservation efforts.

The full story can be found on NVIDIA’s website.

Global UAV Collaborates with Planck for Moving Vehicle Ops of Unmanned Helicopter

Global UAV Technologies announced today a collaboration with Planck Aerosystems that has resulted in successfully performing a fully autonomous landing and takeoff from a moving off-road vehicle with one of Global UAV’s research and development unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from NOVAerial Robotics Inc. The integrated system included an unmanned helicopter and Planck’s flight control software technology for precision landing on moving platforms.

“The Global UAV Procyon is a powerful platform for a variety of use-cases on its own, but with the integration of Planck’s autonomy software, it has become a game-changing asset for operators in the off-road and offshore environment, said Josh Wells, CEO, Planck Aerosystems, Inc. “Global UAV continues to push the envelope of single-rotor UAV technology, and we’re glad to be a part of that effort here at Planck.”


Planck Chosen for Defense Innovation Program

Planck Aero has been chosen for new Defense Innovation Voucher Program (DIVx), along with 14 other companies in the San Diego region, to help diversify government contracts and to explore commercial markets. DIVx is an initiative of Propel San Diego.

More information can be found at https://www.xconomy.com/san-diego/2018/09/18/15-san-diego-companies-chosen-for-defense-innovation-program/

System of Systems Demonstrated at ANTX

Planck Aero, along with Marine Advanced Research and Teledyne, performed a system of systems demonstration at the 2018 Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) August 29-31, 2018. The system consisted of Planck’s Shearwater UAS operating from an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) along with multiple other underwater and surface vehicles. The demonstration showed the emerging capabilities of highly autonomous unmanned systems cooperating in a relevant environment.

Planck’s Shearwater UAS performed several takeoff and landings onto the moving 16-foot USV from Marine Advanced Research without the need for a skilled pilot in the loop, showing the maturity of these technologies.

More information is available in Marine Technology News: https://www.marinetechnologynews.com/news/system-systems-approach-countermeasures-564585

Planck at AUVSI Xponential 2018

Denver, May 1 – 3, 2018

Planck Aerosystems will have a booth at AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2018, the leading trade show for unmanned systems technology. At Booth 3235-B, Planck will be showcasing it’s technology, including precision drone landing on moving platforms and mobile tethered UAV operations.

Planck’s CTO, Dr. Gaemus Collins, will be presenting a talk titled “A Heterogeneous Unmanned System for Maritime Air and Surface Operations” in Room 207 on Wednesday, May 2 at 11:45am. The talk will discuss autonomous drones operating from unmanned vessels, which was work recently performed by Planck Aerosystems for port security applications.

Stop by Planck’s booth to discuss the future of autonomous unmanned systems.