INTERVIEW: Uhnder Inc’s David Loadman reflects on Digital Radar Technology

by 6, May, 2021Innovation, Maritime 4.0, Market News0 comments

Dave Loadman, VP Platforms, Uhnder Inc. (Image Courtesy: Uhnder)

Founded in 2015, Texas-based Uhnder, Inc. has successfully evolved from being a startup to leader in digital imaging radar technologies for automotive and logistics mobility applications. We were recently introduced to Uhnder’s vice president, Platforms, David Loadman, who said, “As ports transition to “smart” ports, the number of autonomous devices will scale dramatically.”

Excerpts of the interview with David follows: (The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity)

How does the new digital radar sensor solution help smart port projects?

Uhnder digital imaging radar enables autonomy, which, in turn, improves efficiency and safety. Efficient autonomous solutions allow for port operations to safely optimize the time required to unload or load a container ship. This ultimately improves the entire supply chain through lower overhead costs and shorter delivery times.

Could you share your experiences within the industry before you joined Uhnder?

I began my career as a CMOS design engineer and then transitioned to sales and marketing. Early in my career, I was fortunate to be part of the team that started Aironet, a pioneer in the WiFi industry. Aironet was acquired by Cisco and today serves as the basis for Cisco WiFi technology. At Dell, I was responsible for all wired and wireless networking for desktop and notebook computers. During my tenure at National Instruments, I was responsible for a business segment that provided test and validation solutions for high-volume manufacturers and consumer electronics OEMs. Prior to joining Uhnder, I established North American operations for Konrad Technologies GmbH, a leader in manufacturing test solutions for automotive radar.

What is your unique selling proposition (USP) with Uhnder?

The Uhnder digitally modulated imaging radar is based on a CDMA-inspired coding scheme to ensure a large number of radars can operate simultaneously in the same manner that a 4G or 5G network allows for a considerable number of simultaneous users. The 196 virtual receivers in the Uhnder radar solution enable angular accuracy detections of less than 1 degree in both the horizontal and vertical fields of view. The combination of our digital coded modulation and high-channel-count MIMO results in a high-resolution point cloud, essential for the perception software stack required by autonomous systems to operate safely.

What are the challenges in deploying digital radar technology in a particular and complex industrial environment such as a container port?

As ports transition to “smart” ports, the number of autonomous devices will scale dramatically. Each berth in a port that serves a container ship requires a large number of trucks and cranes to transport the containers to and from the ship. In addition to the large number of autonomous vehicles, each vehicle itself will require as many as 12 radars for a complete 360-degree field of view. The combination of the number of autonomous vehicles and the number of radars per AV results in hundreds or thousands of radars operating simultaneously. The ports themselves are hostile environments to radar because of the vast amounts of metal objects, which introduce multipath reflections. The resulting smart port combination of density of radars and multipath environment is one of the toughest challenges for radar.

What is the scope and acceptance level (among customers) of the digital radar sensor technology?

Uhnder focuses on the mobility of people and the mobility of goods. For passenger vehicles, Uhnder technology has been selected by Magna, a global top three Tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry. Sensata is a leader in providing sensing solutions to the heavy Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) sector and also has chosen to base their imaging radar product offering on Uhnder technology. Uhnder is also working with the respective market leaders in robotaxis and last-mile delivery.

How has the feedback been from your clients?

We’ve found that the biggest challenge startups and emerging companies have is for the actual products to live up to the hype of marketing collateral. We have received consistent feedback that the Uhnder technology lives up to our marketing statements. Customers implementing autonomy are realizing that radar is the critical sensor and that the biggest challenge radars have today is the inability to operate reliably in the presence of other radars. Our customers have confirmed that Uhnder digital imaging radar addresses the shortcomings of today’s legacy analog radars.

Where do you envision Uhnder to be over this decade?

Uhnder is transitioning from an early unproven startup to a leader in the digital perception market. We have recently filled out our executive team with a highly experienced COO and CFO to ensure that we can profitably scale our growth. The communication and TV markets have both experienced massive growth after the transition from analog to digital (i.e. 4G/5G and Smart TV’s). We believe in our success in driving the shift in radar from analog to digital. We expect to become the leader of adoption and deployment of digital perception solutions for autonomy.

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