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News Release: DHS S&T Funds California Startup to Test Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Improved Situational Awareness

News Release: DHS S&T Funds California Startup to Test Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Improved Situational Awareness

Release Date: 
August 24, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
S&T Public Affairs, 202-254-2385

WASHINGTON - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) awarded $500,000 to Planck Aerosystems, Inc. of San Diego, California, for further testing and deployment of its autonomous small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operational settings. This Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) Phase 5 award is part of an ongoing partnership between SVIP and CBP to provide agents with rugged, highly mobile tools that enhance situational awareness in the field. 

In earlier phases of development, Planck refined its sUAS system based on CBP requirements and input, which included autonomous navigation, automatic target detection and geolocation, and advanced “wingman” features that aid and support CBP agents in-vehicle or on foot. Planck successfully demonstrated those features and the system’s unique capability to autonomously launch and land an sUAS from the bed of a moving vehicle during testing in Phase 4.

“Planck has developed a breakthrough technology," said Ron McNeal, SVIP Transition Director. “Their ability to adapt the technology based on our feedback shows an understanding of what it takes to transition these much-needed capabilities to the government.”

In Phase 5, CBP and S&T will acquire Planck’s system for additional testing and evaluation in a controlled setting. The two agencies will take possession of multiple sUAS and Landing and Recovery System (LARS) units for use by CBP operators in a variety of environments and scenarios, including possible maritime and night operations. The objectives of the SVIP Phase 5 are to validate requirements, evaluate cost-benefits, and develop a concept of operations for operational use.

“CBP is excited about this Phase 5 agreement that will provide training and hands-on flight time to our CBP agents in their operational environments,” said Assistant Chief Patrol Agent Ryan Yamasaki. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our agents to provide operator feedback and fully explore this technology in support of CBP’s homeland security mission.”

About SVIP

SVIP is one of S&T’s programs and tools to fund innovation and work with private sector partners to advance homeland security solutions. Companies participating in SVIP are eligible for up to $2M of non-dilutive funding over four phases to develop and adapt commercial technologies for homeland security use cases.

For more information on current and future SVIP solicitations, visit  https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/svip or contact dhs-silicon-valley@hq.dhs.gov.

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