By the year 2018, nearly 7,500 drones are expected to fly all around U.S. skies. With that large of a number of drones flying above us, it begs the argument and necessity of an air traffic control system, similar to that of major air transportation. Today, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has yet to propose rules to govern the use of commercial robotic aircraft in U.S. skies, but that might change very soon.
Airware, a new startup, is partnering with NASA to explore prototypes of air traffic management systems for commercial drones. Airware’s plans to sell both software and hardware to drone manufacturers and operators. Without a drone air traffic control system, there could be substantial gridlock, or just an increasingly unsafe landscape for all flying devices and transportation. According to Jesse Kallman, Head of Business Development and Regulatory Affairs at Airware, “You will have competing interests trying to use the same space.”
The first phase of the technology and system (developed under NASA’s project) will be Internet-based, and drone operators will file flight plans for approval. Primarily, the system will collect the plans, and analyze them while considering weather conditions, physical obstacles near the route, and other drones in the same area.
One of the challenges facing drones is command response and system failure, which Airware is aiming to solve. The technology is so new, and problems will undoubtedly arise. What happens when a drone loses contact with its operator, and needs to make an emergency landing? Or, if a drone leaves its designated area, how will the technology enable drones to safely get back to its route, or avoid other drones and air transportation. Airware, NASA, and many others researching drone technology are working on these challenges. Expect to see drone technology and businesses evolve tremendously over the next few years.
See the full article from the MIT Technology Review.