There are a few companies with the resources and clout to make rapid advances in the drone industry – and Google spin-off Wing is one of them. Wing has announced that it is using the experience gained during its seven years of drone flights to offer a set of software products for pilots that they hope will contribute to the safe integration of drones into the airspace.
For the most part, Wing has flown under the radar for the last seven years. Starting as a project of Google X, parent company Alphabet’s research and development arm, Wing has been working with airspace regulators all over the world and testing technology and processes for drone delivery. In the last year, Wing has begun successfully testing a consumer drone delivery project in Australia – and has received the first ever certification as an airline carrier for drones in the U.S. That certification places the company in position to be among the first drone delivery companies to move beyond testing to commercial use in the U.S.
Now, the company has announced that they’ll provide OpenSky, “a family of software products that will give drone operators a greater understanding of, and access to, the sky around them,” according to a Wing blog post, to users in Australia. (While the company won’t say when OpenSky will be available in the U.S. and elsewhere, “We’ll have more to share on future OpenSky launches at a later date,” a company spokesperson tells DRONELIFE.)
Airspace Intelligence: Plus “Voice Over,” and “Talk Back.”
Here’s how Wing describes the product: “When a drone flyer enters a location, the Australian OpenSky app provides a checklist covering a range of critical factors, including airspace restrictions, known hazardous situations, and proximity to airports and heliports. OpenSky users in Australia will also be given alerts related to emergency response situations, nearby sporting events, or other situations that may impact available airspace. OpenSky will also introduce accessibility capabilities such as “Voice Over” and “Talk Back” that can improve access for a broader range of flyers.”
Wing says that the “Voice Over” and “Talk Back” accessibility capabilities – as well as the wealth of flight experience that has gone into OpenSky’s development – make the product unique in the ecosystem. “Wing has developed a range of tools and technology to support commercial drone delivery over the past seven years and OpenSky draws from that experience,” says a company spokesperson. “Our software has required a detailed understanding of geographic flight rules—along with buildings, roads, trees, and other terrain — that allow aircraft to navigate safely at low altitudes, and we’ve used it to successfully complete tens of thousands of flights on three continents.”
“OpenSky’s development has also been informed by work with aviation regulators and industry standards setting bodies like ASTM international. Wing is currently developing tools for Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to communicate with drone flyers. In the United States, Wing has participated in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management Pilot Program (UPP). In Switzerland, Wing is a participant in the Federal Office of Civil Aviation’s (FOCA) U-Space Implementation Program. “
There is no cost to use the OpenSky app, which is available for download on web, iOS and Play Store in Australia.
The Collaborative Ecosystem
Wing’s blog post makes a clear point about drone integration: its a team effort. “Our experience has taught us that a collaborative, industry-provided ecosystem of tools and services will be critical to allow unmanned aircraft to reach their full potential and coexist with other aircraft while ensuring safe, efficient, and equitable access to the sky,” says the post. “OpenSky is Wing’s contribution to that collaborative ecosystem, and it will interoperate with apps from across the industry.”
“…Our hope is that OpenSky will ultimately allow all aviation communities to fly with greater confidence, and in doing so, provide greater access to the sky.”
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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