Drone Assist is a free app available for Android and iOS devices that is intended to help drones operators in the United Kingdom fly responsibly. It was first released in December of 2016 and has recently been updated. The app has been developed by NATS, a UK air traffic controller provider in partnership with Altitude Angel. Updates include a number of changes to make it more user friendly for both commercial and recreational users.
The purpose of the app is to help drone pilots fly responsibly which the Fly Now feature addresses. Drone pilots can now plan their flights ahead of time, for any location in the UK. This update supports drone operators operating with limited connectivity and means that pilots can now plan ahead. Using Fly Now creates flight reports, which are visible to other app users and potentially other airspace users, helping to reduce the risk of a drone related incident in UK airspace.
The new Area Reports feature provides users with a visual ‘Red/Amber/Green’ indicator providing a quick and easy way to see a real-time summary of hazards in a particular area when viewing the map. These summaries are categorised as High Risk (red), Medium Risk/Caution (amber) or Fly Safe: Follow Drone Code (green), when there are no reported risks mapped.
Weather information has also been added to the app, allowing drone pilots to view the latest weather conditions, as well as a forecast for the next hour.
According to NATS an additional 2,000-3,000 users are registering each month, with more and more pilots signing up as the weather improves. Registrations now total over 20,000.
Following the success of the mobile app, an iPAD version has just been launched and is also available.
Phil Binks, NATS Drone Lead, said, “It’s great to see so many drone operators sign up for Drone Assist and take piloting a drone so seriously. Drone use is continuously rising and with increased reports of drone incidents near airports and aircraft, the more we can do to encourage responsible drone flying the better. The new features and updates to the app have been developed with drone pilots in mind – both commercial and recreational – and should help make the drone flying experience more enjoyable and accessible as well as safer.”
Drone Assist presents drone pilots with an interactive map of areas of airspace used by commercial aircraft, as well as ground-based hazards that might pose a safety or privacy risk, such as power lines, schools or sports venues. Drone operators planning to fly near these areas – usually around airports and airfields – should ideally avoid them or exercise great caution. It also contains a ‘Fly Now’ feature that will share the user’s drone flight location with other app users, and the wider drone community, helping to reduce the risk of a drone related incident in the UK’s airspace.