Wright State Research Institute is spinning off a new company around a technology that hopes to create an air traffic control system for drones.
The institute, part of Wright State University, is developing a new system designed to be a traffic management tool for drone users of all kinds — allowing them to plot courses for their craft that stop them from flying in restricted areas, avoid bad weather and risky collisions with other aircraft.
The new startup, FlyTransparent LLC, will have Bruce Preiss, WSRI’s lead research engineer, as its CEO. It will bring to market the GoFlyZone, a Web site and mobile application for drone users to voluntarily upload flight plans and allow them to see other users’ flights before they get off the ground.
“There are just too many users out there right now to send their information to an air traffic control,” Preiss said. “Self regulation is a step in the right direction.”
Preiss developed the Web site along with researchers David Malek and Matt Duquette. This, he said, as there are an estimated 500,000 unmanned aerial systems, or drones, up and flying, with another 12,000 landing in the hands of consumers each month.
Commercial users are often aware of the laws around the emerging industry — but cheaper drone models are landing in the hands of hobbyists with increasing regularity, leading to high profile incidents of drones buzzing too close to aircraft and helicopters, or as was recently the case in Cincinnati, crashing into buildings.
“We view this as the only good near-term approach,” Preiss said, adding that even current proposals to attach some form of transponder to each UAV would take considerable time and cost.
Users of the app will be able to plot a course for their drone and it will be fed through a central flight planning data server, which will allow them to see where other drones are operating and where restricted areas are. It will also show them potential weather hazards and other manned aircraft to avoid.
Hugh Bolton, senior cyber and intelligence fellow for WSRI, said the tech could come with some form of subscription or licensing fees. It’s still to be determined how it could be a benefit to the legal and insurance liabilities for unmanned systems.
The company isn’t ready to take it to market. Preiss said it will work to build a business model to commercialize the tech and then seek angel investors and venture capital to support the startup. He wasn’t sure when a commercial version could come to market, but it will be demonstrated at the Ohio UAS Conference next week.
as reported on uasvision.com