Plextek Helps Heavy Lifting Autonomous Drones To Navigate In Complex Environments

Engineering and design consultancy Plextek is partnering with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) specialist, Griff Aviation, to put micro radars and sensors on its innovative heavy lifting drones. Griff is developing UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) designed to carry payloads up to 250kg for a wide range of applications including moving building equipment and materials across harsh terrains including mountainous and forested landscapes.

The Plextek electronic-scanning (e-scan) micro radar and advanced software have been optimized for use on drones and other UAVs. Operating in the 60 GHz mm-waveband, the e-scan radar is capable of detecting hazards such as power lines from up to 60 meters as well as buildings, bridges, vegetation and other objects both in front of and beneath the drone, with good range out to 300m and angular resolution. It also provides day and night, all-weather sensing. And because the 60GHz band is license exempt in most territories, the micro radar can be freely used and is unlikely to cause interference with other equipment on board the UAV or in close proximity.

The Plextek micro radar will enable the drones to fly at a pre-defined height when integrated with the Micro Pilot flight controller. A software shim layer converts the distance and azimuth information into MAVLINK commands used by the flight controller to navigate with speed and safety.

Plextek is currently working with Griff Aviation with on-site trials in Norway ahead of putting the drones through their paces with a leading energy provider in Japan and a power line company in Australia.

“Plextek has established internationally recognized expertise in mm-wave radar over the last six years and is now applying its technology for the ‘sense and avoid’ navigation of drones and other UAVs,” said Peter Doig, Business Development Director at Plextek. “The Griff Aviation project is particularly challenging and exciting as up until now, most drones have been used for light weight payloads and heavy lift drones require very precise and reliable flight control.”

Hans Petter Forde, Technical Lead at Griff Aviation adds, “Innovation is needed to develop heavy lifting UAVs with robust systems for navigation and sensing.  Plextek’s micro radar technology is ahead of the field and is ideal to fit our needs. We believe firmly that working together, Plextek and Griff Aviation will develop a system that will set the standards for the future of UAS navigation.”  

About Griff Aviation AS

Located in Sykkylven near the city Aalesund in Norway, Griff Aviation is a relatively young company founded in 2015, which employs 20 people. Griff is focused on delivering high-end, quality systems that meet the most stringent aviation standards for industrial and commercial markets. With lifting capabilities that are redefining the UAS industry, GRIFF Aviation offers a completely new range of fully-customizable systems and payload options. For more information visit

About Plextek

Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defense & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications. Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 30 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organizations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

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