Sanata Monica based AirMap, an airspace management platform for drones, has formed a joint venture with Rakuten, Inc., an internet services provider headquartered in Tokyo, to develop Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) solutions for drone operators and airspace managers in Japan. The partnership follows Rakuten’s participation in AirMap’s recent Series B investment round in February 2017.
Drones in Japan are being used in a variety of commercial applications, including drone delivery, construction, inspection, agriculture, and security. According to PwC, commercial drones will deliver up to $127.3 billion in global economic impact in the coming years. AirMap Rakuten is banking on millions of drones taking flight. They will require ability to access and exchange safety-critical information with others in the airspace. Technology to manage drone traffic in low-altitude airspace – like Rakuten AirMap’s – will be critical to enable safe and efficient operations of drones. There are two questions: How quickly will that growth come and will this become the standard There are other UTM initiatives and solutions in development. Of course, one could also make the argument that growth will be impeded until there is a standard UTM platform in place.
These questions arise in all countries. What is interesting about this development is the leg up it gives AirMap in a country that seems intent on making strides in the development of a robust drone ecosystem. Rakuten is a big tech firm. One could characterize it as the Amazon of Japan. Drone delivery is of keen interest and the joint venture is an attempt to accelerate that.
Rakuten entered the commercial drone field with the launch of the Sora Raku Rakuten Drone delivery service in April 2016. Through the Sora Raku service and its collaboration with domestic partners on several ground-breaking test flights, the company has developed a deep understanding of the commercial drone market and regulatory environment in Japan.
AirMap is the global leader in airspace management for drones, utilized by the vast majority of drones world-wide, delivering solutions for situational awareness, flight planning, geofencing, drone cybersecurity, and more. Millions of drones rely on the AirMap platform to access and share the data they need to fly safely in low-altitude airspace, thanks to integrations with hundreds of leading drone manufacturers and developers.
AirMap has been deeply involved in worldwide efforts to build technologies for Unmanned Traffic Management, the technological framework that will facilitate data exchange and air traffic control for drones. Today, more than 125 airports and other airspace stakeholders use AirMap’s airspace management dashboard to open surrounding airspace to drones, view past and current drone flights, accept digital flight notices, and communicate with drone operators.
Through the joint venture, the two companies will leverage their knowledge and experience to bring airspace management solutions to the Japanese market and support the development of the commercial drone industry in Japan.
Rakuten AirMap’s UTM platform will provide situational awareness for airspace managers (such as airports and municipal governments) and allow drone operators to fly safely and stay informed during their flight. Through the platform, airspace managers can view drone flight notices in real time within their jurisdiction, automate authorization for drone flights and communicate directly with drone operators via SMS or phone. The platform also allows drone operators to understand the rules in their flight area, create flight plans, and share them with nearby airports and authorities. By connecting drone operators and airspace managers, the Rakuten AirMap platform opens low-altitude airspace for intelligent drone flight.
“Drone technologies have the potential to revolutionize industries, and the growing number of drone-based commercial services is a testament to this,” said Takashi Toraishi, president of the New Services Development Company of Rakuten, Inc. and responsible for the Sora Raku Rakuten Drone service. “We are very happy to be partnering with AirMap, the leader in airspace management services, as we make our first step into UTM services in Japan and work to create a safe and viable future for the drone ecosystem in the country.”
“We’re tremendously excited to partner with Rakuten to bring Unmanned Traffic Management capabilities to Japan,” said Ben Marcus, CEO of AirMap. “Rakuten AirMap’s UTM solutions will connect airspace managers with drones and their operators – setting the stage for Japan’s commercial drone ecosystem to thrive.”