Our spotlight focus turns this month to Matthew Hamilton, Sagetech Avionics’ Chief Technology Officer. Matt leads the technology teams of the company to create advanced avionics solutions that currently serve on unmanned aircraft platforms. Matt’s qualifications include a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Matt shared his story of how he came to work at Sagetech when he was asked why he chose to live in the Gorge to pursue his career in tech and innovation. Prior to his employment at Sagetech, which began in November of 2015, Matt worked at Aviation Communication Surveillance Systems (ACSS), a division of L3-Harris, in Phoenix AZ. At ACSS, Matt worked on traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) and transponders for commercial aircraft. Matt first learned about Sagetech when his employer began working on a new mini TCAS product and purchased a Sagetech legacy transponder to evaluate it. When this program was cancelled, Matt was moved to qualification testing, at which point both he and his colleague David Day started looking for new and more interesting opportunities. Dave reached out to Sagetech and quickly got an interview and an offer and moved to the Gorge. Dave immediately reached out to Matt about the opportunity to work at Sagetech with him. Two weeks later in October, Matt flew north and had a “working interview” where he helped design some of the transmitter circuitry that is still part of Sagetech’s MX Platform. During his interview Matt stayed in the former Sagetech owner’s barn (which was the former Sagetech building!), hiked Eagle Creek, and fell in love with the Gorge while the weather was fantastic. Even though Dave was the only other person that Matt knew in the Columbia Gorge, when Sagetech offered the job, he took it. He started work in November and had to stay in a vacation rental because there was no housing available. The weather turned quickly… with snow in November and continuous rain for the next six months.
When asked to share one great thing that Sagetech does for its employees, Matt replied without hesitation, “Sagetech offers a continuing education program, which includes learning to fly, as a way to foster an aviation culture at the company. The company pays for half the cost of a private pilot’s license or any college or education/ training up to $5k/year, as long as it is in line with Sagetech’s business.” Matt is now a certified private pilot and has found that being a pilot himself has proven invaluable in developing a user-friendly product for customers because he can personally flight-test the products. He added, (with a grin) “There is nothing that can match the value of real-life product testing!”
Matt was enthusiastic about his work developing innovative and progressive projects at Sagetech that will “make the skies safer by helping aircraft avoid mid-air collisions.” The company’s Airborne Collision Avoidance System X (ACAS-X) is the next generation of collision-avoidance systems that is specifically designed to meet the needs of uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and small UAS. This technology is also applicable to crewed aviation (Fixed Wing, Rotorcraft and eVTOLs) Sagetech is now designing a smaller version of their MX transponder for the less-than-55 lb. UAS market. Today, small UAS do not have transponders because “it would overwhelm the 1090 MHz spectrum.” Instead, they can be equipped with a passive receiver and use ACAS-X to avoid collisions. For larger aircraft, the MX will get upgraded with some extra processing capability to include the ACAS-X and a UAT receiver. Sagetech is working with many of the major advanced air mobility (AAM) players, one of the company’s key target markets. Uncrewed cargo aircraft have also been targeted in Sagetech’s quest to make the skies safer through certified collision-avoidance systems. Sagetech’s innovation has extended now to the development of an iOS app that will soon be available for light sport and experimental aircraft to equip with ADS-B.
When asked to elaborate on what he and his company would like to gain as a member of the GTA, Matt replied that he sees the GTA as “a great recruiting tool that provides visibility to the company.” He also sees synergies between and among the Gorge tech companies that have not been leveraged yet, which the GTA could help with.
Matt attributes his success at Sagetech to the amazing team of engineers that he works with, and to his supportive wife Hauna and kids Brogan, Bella, and Brynlee. When Matt is not working, he enjoys flying to new places with his family. And to wrap up this extraordinary interview, Matt was asked the famous question… “If you could have one meal with anyone, who would you choose, and which dish would you share?” And in keeping with Matt’s enthusiasm for aviation, the answer came back (not too surprisingly!) that he would love to dine with Neil Armstrong and share a long conversation about aviation history over a sirloin steak.
Visit Sagetech’s website to learn more about the company and products!