Drones, the IoT promise of the airspace.

As new technology develops, new questions arise. In recent years the Internet of Things has evolved from a promising idea into a real world factor. So have drones. The arrival of these new technologies is forcing existing companies to consider new nuisances and risks. In this article we look at several examples on the impact of drones and IT in real world companies. In 2016 PWC, a consultancy, estimated the value of business solutions with drone applications to amount to $127bn. They expect most value to come from investment monitoring, maintenance and asset inventory of infrastructure or analysis of soils and drainage and crop health monitoring in agriculture. Furthermore, CB insights reports the amount of funding deals for drone companies to keep rising. Therefore, we expect the profligacy of drones to continue.

Drone related incidents become more common.

Although drones can be fun to play with, their coexistence in the same area as manned planes can form a risk. The FAA reports that drone incidents in the United States alone, average about 250 a month in 2017, 50% up from the year before. Small drones are difficult to detect by radar, for air traffic controllers it is difficult to spot the difference by eye between a drone and a balloon. Thus, control centers could use extra tools that would help them deal with both drones and airplanes in the same airspace.

Startups provide solutions to decrease the amount of incidents.

Several startups such as Airmap and Unifly aim to bridge the gap between traffic management of traditional manned and modern unmanned aircrafts. Airmap started as a mapping solution for drone operators in 2014. Today it has received over $43M in funding from Microsoft and Boeing amongst others. They partnered with Rakuten, a Japanese ecommerce and internet company. Together they have developed a platform in which drone operators can request permission to fly and airspace managers can (automatically) reject or approve permission. From April onwards, 500 airports across the United States will use Airmap in the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) pilot in order to manage authorizations of drone operations. Unifly also offers a platform that manages drone flight approvals and lets the air traffic controller communicate directly with the drone pilots. It provides the airspace management with a tool that simulates whether the desired flight path is in conflict with any obstacle, traffic or regulatory limitation based on a combination of regulatory data, meteorological data, drone data, traffic data. Other startups such as Dedrone allow you to protect your airspace and detect drones. Afterwards, you can take any protective measures yourself. Apolloshield builds on this concept and expands it by allowing the airspace manager to take over the unauthorized drone and send it “home”.

Drones can also provide security.

Drones do not only form a threat to the safety of air traffic, but they can enhance our security as well. Robird, a Dutch startup from Enschede uses drones to mimic the movements of predators in order to shy birds away. Direct Line, a UK insurer, had set up a prototype, called Fleetlights, in cooperation with Designbloom, a design agency, in which they would send on-demand drones. The coverage of street lightning can be very low in sparsely populated areas. Thus, people that drive overdistant land roads may have meager visibility and a less secure journey. In order to accommodate for this problem they developed an mobile application that allowed people to request drones that accompany them back home. Direct Line concluded this not to be an economic viable solution. Therefore it was not spread out. Another example of how drones can help increase safety was in Maharashtra, the state of Mumbai in India. There, the police monitored traffic by means of drones along an highway a minister referred to as a ‘death trap’. In the first weekend fifteen truck drivers were fined for cutting lanes after aerial photos were captured by the drones. Foxnews reported that in Lincolnshire, UK, a police drone located by means of infrared and thermal technology a man that became unconscious after an crash in a ditch 160m from where he crashed.

Drones can pose a danger for traditional air traffic and can be used to bring order.

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