One of the preeminent radar sensing providers for drone manufacturers across the world is headquartered out of Lawrence, Kansas.
But until now, little has been known about the high-tech startup making global advances from the heart of the Silicon Prairie.
Ainstein has quietly been developing advanced radar technologies and sensor data processing intelligence since 2015 out of their office within the University of Kansas Bioscience & Technology Business Center.
Ainstein was founded by Dr. Zongo Wang, a former KU research professor whose expertise is focused on the research of large-scale radar technologies.
Wang was also part of the team that worked on an NSF Antarctica Project, a mission that used radars to map polar ice conditions.
Sheen Xiao, Director of Operations at Ainstein, explained that it was on that National Science Foundation expedition to the Antarctic when Wang came up with the idea for the company.
With plenty of downtime and little to do to stay entertained, Wang started thinking about other possible uses for the radar technology he was researching. He decided he wanted to bring his developing technologies to more industries outside of just academics and the military.
Soon after, he quit his job at the university and went to work as a tech founder. Three years later, Ainstein now has a staff of 37 that works from their locations in Lawrence and Beijing.
On-staff developers work on advances in sensing solutions for the drone market, like the radar altimeter, collision avoidance, and FPGA-based flight controller for drones.
“Many of our employees are alumni of KU, which has a great track record of innovations in radar research and development,” said Xiao. “I have seen the company grow tremendously. In the drone market, I would say we are recognized as the [top] radar sensing provider for all drone manufacturers.”
The drone market is not the only space in which Ainstein has its sights set on being a leader. Last year, Ainstein announced an expansion of their technology offering by entering the automotive space.
“We launched our mid and long-range automotive safety radar for forward collision warning, as well as a short-range radar which is used for around-the-vehicle awareness like blind-spot detection,” said Xiao. “We have many active engagements with well-recognized automotive OEMs and Tier 1s. Additionally, we have experienced a great deal of interest from emerging self-driving car manufacturers to incorporate our solutions into their perception systems.”
Ainstein has continued to penetrate the agricultural industry a well with drone-based high precision crop monitoring solutions. They are currently working in partnership with MicaSense, a leading sensor provider for the drone market and precision agriculture businesses.
“[MicaSense’s] sensors essentially survey the crops to look for color changes as well as a unique spectrum in the light reflection,” said Xiao. “This enables early disease detection or can even help determine whether fertilizer is applied efficiently. They’ve been fairly successful and recognized in the agricultural survey space, but they do have a use case that no existing providers can help them with.”
That use case involves crops that are planted on the sides of mountains and mountainous terrain, such as grapevines, tea and more. Xiao explained that any drone can fly over flat ground and keep a constant elevation above the crop in order to survey, but the same can’t be said for other surfaces.
“We developed a drone solution including a MicaSense camera and our radar altimeter,” said Xiao. “The drone is just the vehicle to carry those two sensors. The drone solution has been field tested and proved to provide actionable data from these challenging mountainous farms that were previously considered as ‘unsurveyable’.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.