FLIR Systems is considering a number of opportunities in the eVTOL domain, including adapting its chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) sensors for use in the emergency services market.
During a conference call with reporters in late October, David Proulx, the company’s vice president of product management for unmanned systems and integrated solutions, said the company had until now focused on weapons of mass destruction detection. However, he noted that FLIR’s sensors aimed at detecting chemical warfare or similar threats could be used in more civilian-focused markets: for example, being utilized on an unmanned platform like an eVTOL system to detect various types of gas. This could “keep firemen out of harm’s way or [other] first responders out of harm’s way . . . that’s one of the things that we’re looking at on the sensing side,” he said.
Proulx’s remarks followed an earlier interview with eVTOL.com in mid-2019 when Mike Walters, vice president for micro-camera product management at the company, said that a number of operators in the eVTOL domain had expressed an interest in the company’s products. At the time, Walters said FLIR viewed its long-wave infrared (LWIR) cameras as holding potential for eVTOL platforms, notably its compact Boson uncooled thermal sensor. A thermal camera like Boson would be particularly useful for air taxis, Walters said, because of its obvious applications at night in providing situational awareness.
However, the sector is “fraught with regulatory complexity,” noted Dave Cullin, vice president of global business development for detection at FLIR Systems, also speaking on the recent conference call. Cullin said the company is looking at the investments it is making in both unmanned and manned platforms for its defense customers and sees that “there are extrapolations that can be made to air taxis, commercial package delivery, all those really exciting opportunities,” but he added that this “migration is naturally taking more time, because there’s so many things to figure out in the interest of public safety before that happens at a broad scale.”
Troy Boonstra, FLIR’s VP of product management for sensors, pointed to the interest that several OEMs, such as Airbus, have shown in the area.
“So I think you will see [technology like FLIR’s sensors] propagate across, but it’s propagating slowly right now,” he added.