by Ben Fisher
Posted on January 12, 2016
One of the big trends for the industry in 2015 was the emergence of low altitude flight information start-ups. What originally started as No Fly Zone databases has evolved into serious flight safety information for low altitude drone flights.
Some or the early iterations allowed private residents to submit their home address to a No Fly Zone database. This was fueled in part by privacy concerns and scaremongering by the media. The early databases gained a lot of traction and shared the information with drone manufacturers. The aim was for manufacturers to adopt this data and prevent their drones from entering the residential private airspace.
Although these models didn’t have much longevity, what eventually emerged is a serious low altitude safety information database which is valuable to many different stakeholders. Some of the front runners in this space are Airmap, Hivemapper and Altitude Angel. They have amassed millions of data points respectively including No Fly Zones for airports, national parks, restricted airspace and temporary flight restrictions. This data can be accessed by airspace users for flight planning and to keep their operations legal. Airmap has partnered with DJI and 3DR to make its data available to their consumers via companion flight apps. Hivemapper offers its own app and crowdsources a lot of its data as well as providing boundary information for buildings and landmarks. Altitude Aerial pulls in weather data and is working on situational awareness capabilities.
This type of information is crucial for successful operations in low altitude situations. One of the luxuries of normal commercial flight is there aren’t any obstructions during flight apart from possibly other aircraft. The very use of drones means they’re operating within a small airspace envelope no more than 600ft above ground. This low-level airspace has obstructions and is dynamic and changeable.
Ultimately this data layer has far-reaching implications for safety and air traffic control in the long run. It’s an area which we will more than likely integrate with and so we’re watching this space closely.