NCET Biz Tips: The Future of Unmanned Aerial Systems Safety Begins in Reno

NCET Tech Wednesday, Oct, 12, is your opportunity to learn more about Iris Automation and its designed-for-safety DAA technology solution.

NCET Tech Wednesday, Oct, 12, is your opportunity to learn more about Iris Automation and its designed-for-safety DAA technology solution.

Today, there exists a critical challenge how Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) will be able to coexist with other aircraft operating within our National Airspace System (NAS). Safety is the primary concern.

What most of us think of as a drone or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is really part of a larger Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). A drone is a component of the larger system. The challenge is how do you overcome the regulatory and technological (sensing, command, control, and communication) hurdles to reach a target level of safety equivalent to manned aircraft. It’s no easy feat.

Enter Iris Automation based in Reno with its Casia technology being the only commercially available machine vision detect and avoid (DAA) technology in the world.

Bill Leonard

 Without DAA there are no flights Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS). When you analyze what a pilot does in a cockpit, most of it is monitoring automated systems and then looking outside for potential hazards to his or her flight. In other words, pilots detect and avoid hazards during flights.

By removing the pilot from the equation with unmanned aviation, there is an absolute need to replace that capability. Without a DAA system, there is no autonomy and no flights beyond the visual range of the ground observers. It is for this reason that current FAA rules restrict drone flight at or below 400 feet. The drone must be kept within sight. Drones don’t fly in restricted airspace. Essentially manned aircraft and unmanned aircraft are not allowed to mix today because of safety and collision concerns.
Iris Automation to the rescue. Iris’ Casia line of systems will be enabling the safe operation of air taxis, helicopters, and eventually most aircraft to improve flight safety. It’s Casia’s DAA technology when fully adopted that will ensure that unmanned aviation does not put manned aviation at risk. Casia DAA technology allows a UAV to look in all directions all the time. Visual coverage is limited only to the number of cameras and computing power that the UAV can accommodate.

How did Iris Automation get started and end up with its headquarters in Reno? The company was founded in 2015 by Alex Harmsen and James Howard in Canada. After attending Y Combinator, they decided to stay in the U.S. and establish a presence in San Francisco. In 2017, Iris Automation established operations in Reno originally for flight testing then expanding to production, support, and engineering. In 2021, Iris Automation shifted its headquarters to Reno.

Reno was selected as the home base because of its proximity to 1) Silicon Valley, 2) year-round good weather, 3) access to flight testing locations, 4) large areas of uncontrolled airspace, and 5) great support from UNR and the City of Reno.

Iris has 40 employees. Employee backgrounds include world class vision and software engineers, commercially rated crewed and remote pilots, and FAA regulatory subject matter experts.

Iris Automation is a classic venture capital startup that has developed and sold the first ever commercially available machine vision aircraft detection system (DAA). As already mentioned, this enabling technology allows for drone BVLOS mission and fundamentally improves flight safety.
What many outside of the unmanned aviation industry don’t know is that Iris Automation drones have flown hundred of miles using its Casia DAA system as the only mitigation. Iris’ technology and second-to-none customer support are routinely mentioned by regulators and customers.

Casia G is Iris Automation’s newest detect and avoid solution that is ground-based. Casia G continuously monitors the airspace to ensure your UAS operation is safe from intruder aircraft. It’s meant to protect the airspace for both UAVs and crewed flying machines, helping them operate safely. Thanks to Iris’ partnership with TruWeather, operators will also benefit from real-time integrated communications, micro-weather data, as well as collision avoidance at lower altitudes.

What is Iris Automation’s biggest challenge today? To build and produce its product lines at scale.
What is the question that Iris Automation gets asked most every day? That question is, “Do we build drones or enabling technology for drones?” The answer? “We build enabling technology.”

Iris’ Casia Detect and Avoid (DAA) technology onboard an autonomous UAV is proving that a UAV can be trusted to fly Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS).

With Iris’ DAA technology, we may be about to witness the release of pent-up demand and an exponential eruption of industries wanting to fly long distances autonomously and cost effectively. Let’s not leave out new industries we have not yet realized too.

Exciting times for Iris Automation. Exciting for times for all of us.

NCET Tech Wednesday, Oct, 12, is your opportunity to learn more about Iris Automation and its designed-for-safety DAA technology solution.

Sign up early for Iris Automation’s onsite presentation and tour from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and networking from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. More information at

Bill Leonard is VP of Communications at NCET and a freelance copywriter of lead-generating customer case studies, conversion-driven web and sales copy, success stories, and white papers. Connect with Bill at NCET produces education and networking events to help people explore business and technology.


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