HyperWerx: Building the Future

HyperWerx: Building the Future

Amir Husain is the CEO & founder of SkyGrid, provider of airspace management services for commercial drone operators, enterprises, and aviation authorities. Husain explains how building the HyperWerx campus will showcase what AI really can do for SkyGrid and its partners. 

What is the vision for SkyGrid’s use of the HyperWerx facility? 

HyperWerx is a one-of-a-kind autonomy facility where SkyGrid and our partners can test complex systems, build, design, deploy, and showcase how AI, drones, sensors and other exponential technologies come together to solve important social problems and create large-scale economic opportunities.  

At HyperWerx, SkyGrid will bring next-generation autonomous aviation to life – end to end. This includes flying and testing drones, integrating them with AI algorithms, experiencing first-hand the limitations of commercial systems, the peculiarities of GPS receivers, image enhancement technology and the criticality of sensors and flight controllers. In a nutshell, exploring the art of the possible and expanding its boundaries.  

How is HyperWerx different from other testing facilities?  

The work at HyperWerx ranges from software to hardware, from fabrication to testing, and goes well beyond supporting just aerial robots. The capabilities available to us at HyperWerx are incredibly robust, and we will continue to add differentiated elements on the campus as time goes on.  

HyperWerx represents a unique ecosystem and community. In addition to SparkCognition and SGS, our key strategic partners, including Boeing and Raytheon, are also involved. Broadly, HyperWerx allows for collaboration with academia, commercial, and defense partners at the facility, who are able to work on challenging projects together. HyperWerx will be a hub for one-of-a-kind collaborations with leading minds across industry.  

What will HyperWerx allow you to do now that they have opened building one? 

HyperWerx will allow us to carry out physical integration with a variety of sensors, test guidance and swarm algorithms, monitor drone safety and performance, develop requirements for next generation versions of the SkyGrid platform, aerial-terrestrial integrated autonomous systems, and much more. 

Who are the HyperWerx partners? 

We are joined in our efforts by SparkCognition and SparkCognition Government Systems (SGS) and are already in discussions with leading enterprises and research institutions who will join us on what promises to be an amazing journey. The work we are doing with Boeing and Raytheon will also be featured significantly at HyperWerx. Together, we will work to imagine, prototype and build revolutionary new systems that accelerate our collective transition into a magnificent future, one which I hope will exceed our wildest imagination. 

Are all solutions developed at HyperWerx experimental, or are there products that are currently being sold to customers?  

Various systems ranging from experimental to production systems are being built and tested at HyperWerx. Some of these include autonomous control systems, hybrid UAVs, advanced computer vision systems, autonomous control systems and SkyGrid’s unmanned traffic management platform.  

Why did you choose this location?  

SkyGrid is headquartered in Austin, and the 50 acres of land on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, provides ample resources and space for testing. Austin is culturally rich, demographically diverse and has one of the finest research universities in the world. UT Austin’s computer science department, for example, ranks #6 and its prowess in the field of AI is arguably ranked even higher. HyperWerx will only continue to push the city forward as one of the world’s leading tech communities in Austin’s growing tech ecosystem.  

What are the future plans for HyperWerx? When will the development of the facilities and land be complete?  

Building One of HyperWerx is just the first of many phases we envision in the development of the HyperWerx campus. The campus will continue to see the addition of facilities and robust capabilities, including new structures, test ranges and support for industry specific scenarios. 

What excites you most about the HyperWerx facility? 

What excites me about HyperWerx is not just that it represents the growth of the company, but mostly that it will provide our clients, partners, and team with a laboratory within which to roll up our sleeves and build the future. Personally, I have no intention of merely watching this process unfold from the sidelines. I intend to be right beside our partners and our team – those brave architects of the future – neck deep in the heady business of building, testing, deploying and perfecting products that will tangibly fulfill the promise of the AI revolution.  

Top Drone Mistakes (Part 4): Operating in No-Fly Zones

Top Drone Mistakes (Part 4): Operating in No-Fly Zones

Where can I fly my drone? This should be the first question you ask before taking flight. However, many drone pilots still make the mistake of operating in no-fly zones, also known as no drone zones. These areas include the airspace around airports, stadiums, emergency situations, and more. 

Pilots who operate drones in no-fly zones are not only giving the industry a bad rap, they’re also putting lives at risk. To avoid these scenarios, we kicked off a new series on the top drone mistakes in 2021 and beyond. In Part 3, we covered the top mistakes around the flying in adverse conditions. This time we’ll focus on the top mistakes when it comes to operating in no-fly zones. 

 

Mistake 1: Flying in U.S. controlled airspace without flight authorization

Always should check the airspace classes and altitude ceilings in your area before taking flight. If flying in U.S. controlled airspace (Class A, B, C, D or E), flight authorization is required. Controlled airspace is typically found around airports and at certain altitudes where air traffic controllers are actively directing/separating manned aircraft. See how the FAA defines the airspace classes below:

drone no fly zones

Drone operators are prohibited from flying in controlled airspace without authorization. Although it sounds complex, drone pilots can easily identify controlled airspace and get authorization to fly using our free SkyGrid Flight Control app. As an FAA-approved LAANC supplier, SkyGrid provides real-time flight authorization in U.S. controlled airspace within the pre-approved altitude ceilings. This service is available to both Part 107-licensed and recreational drone pilots.

 

Mistake 2: Flying higher than 400 feet above ground level

When flying in uncontrolled airspace (Class G), drone pilots should never fly higher than 400 feet above ground level. This FAA rule helps minimize any potential collisions between manned and unmanned aircraft. Keep in mind the 400-foot limit is measured above the surface, so drones can still fly 400 feet above a cliff or building, as long as they’re in uncontrolled airspace.

When flying in controlled airspace (Class A, B, C, D or E), the altitude ceilings are absolute values above ground level. These altitude limits should NOT be added to the height of any structures. Pilots can find the altitude ceilings in controlled airspace within the SkyGrid Flight Control app.

 

Mistake 3: Flying within national UAS restricted zones

No matter if you’re flying in controlled airspace or not, it’s always important to check for National Security UAS Flight Restrictions (NSUFRs) in your area. These no-fly zones are often issued around military bases and high-security facilities and events. Operators who violate these flight restrictions may be subject to civil penalties and criminal charges. Pilots can find the areas labeled as NSUFRs in the SkyGrid Flight Control app.

 

Mistake 4: Flying near emergency situations, such as fires and vehicle collisions

Hopefully you already know this is big no no! Flying your drone near an emergency situation can prevent first responders from doing their jobs effectively and put lives at risk. For example, if a drone flies near a wildfire, fire response teams are often forced to ground their aircraft to avoid the potential of a midair collision. A drone flying near a traffic incident can also hamper police or medical aircraft operations. Ultimately, interference by a drone can cost lives.

 

Mistake 5: Flying near sporting events or stadiums

Unless authorized, drone pilots are also prohibited from flying in and around stadiums during events, starting one hour before and ending one hour after the scheduled event time. These events include concerts, sporting events, and races in stadiums and venues that seat 30,000 people or more. The no-fly zone covers a radius of 3 nautical miles of the stadium and up to 3,000 feet above ground level.

And that’s a wrap! We hope this series will help clarify some of the misconceptions around the drone rules and best practices. 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.

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Top Drone Mistakes (Part 3): Flying in Adverse Conditions

Drone Flying in a Storm

As drone operators it is essential to recognize how important it is to have access to detailed, up-to-date airspace intelligence before taking flight in case anything unforeseen happens. In Part 2, we covered the top mistakes when it comes to not following drone best practices. This time we’ll focus on the top misconceptions around flying in adverse conditions. 

No matter if you’re a new drone hobbyist or an experienced commercial pilot, this list is a good reminder of what NOT to do when operating drones. 

 

Mistake 1: Flying in cold weather without pre-heating your battery 

In general, flying in cold weather will drain your battery faster, so keep a close eye on it! Making sure your battery is warm enough before flight will help. It’s recommended to pre-heat your battery to 68°F (20°C) or more. If you don’t have a battery heater, hover in place before taking off to make sure your battery warms up. The SkyGrid Flight Control app will show your battery’s temperature so you can check it before and during flight.  

 

Mistake 2: Flying in freezing temperatures  

Some manufacturers recommend avoiding temperatures below 14°F (-10°C), while others caution against any temperature below freezing (32°F or 0°C). Extreme cold weather can cause an unexpected power drop, or even cause batteries to fail completely. Cold weather can also dull a drone’s sensors, which may lead to a slower response from the control input. 

 

Mistake 3: Flying in temperatures above 104°F 

In many cases, drone manufacturers also recommend avoiding high temperatures above 104°F (40°C). Prolonged exposure to high heat will likely reduce the life of your battery. You also risk melting the internal wires and plastic. Also keep in mind that hot weather is often accompanied by humidity, which can damage your drone’s motor, camera, or gimbal. Always check the temperature and humidity before flying and ensure you wipe down your drone before and after flights.  

Pilots can check the local temperature, humidity, wind speed, precipitation, and more in SkyGrid Flight Control. The app shows microweather data within a 500-meter radius that’s updated every 60 seconds, which makes it easy to avoid unexpected weather conditions.  

 

Mistake 4: Flying in winds speeds above 24 mph 

Among the most popular drones, few are equipped to fly above 24 mph winds. For example, the Mavic 2 Pro can be flown in max wind speeds of 24 mph, but the Mavic Mini can only withstand up to 18 mph winds. Always check the max wind speed of your drone, but it’s likely safe to assume wind speeds of 25 mph and above are too dangerous to fly in and can lead to a collision. 

 

Mistake 5: Flying without a pre-flight checklist 

Ultimately, drone pilots should establish a routine before taking flight that includes checking your drone and gathering situational awareness. Pre-flight checklists commonly include recharging the battery and controller, recalibrating the compass, assessing the propellers, and confirming GPS connectivity. It should also include checking local conditions in the air and on the group. Our latest guide on improving your pre-flight checklist can help.  

 

Mistake 6: (Bonus!) Flying without remote ID technology  

Don’t be alarmed… remote ID technology isn’t required in the United States yet, but it will be by Summer 2023. At this time, drone manufacturers will be required to produce drones that broadcast their location, and drone pilots will be required to fly a compatible drone. You can get more details in our latest remote ID guide  

Stay tuned for Part 4 where we’ll focus on the top drone mistakes when flying near restricted areas. In the meantime, check out our new drone app to that includes advanced weather data, such as precipitation, temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, visibility, and more. 

 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features. 

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Top Drone Mistakes (Part 2): Not Following Drone Best Practices

drones

From autonomous drones to air taxis, the urban air mobility market has advanced rapidly. Drones open the door to amazing new opportunities and allow anyone to access to the skies. With access like this comes responsibility.  Anyone operating a drone must make sure that their flights are conducted in a way that is both safe and legal. 

To avoid scenarios of pilots giving the industry a bad rap, we kicked off a new series on the top drone mistakes in 2021 and beyond. In Part 1, we covered the top misconceptions around the new FAA drone rules for flying over people, vehicles, and at night. This time we’ll focus on the top mistakes when it comes to not following drone best practices.   

 No matter if you’re a new drone hobbyist or an experienced commercial pilot, this list is a good reminder of what NOT to do when operating drones. 

 

Mistake 1: Keeping your battery connected to the charger  

Do not leave your battery connected to a charger once it’s fully charged. This could accelerate the aging of the battery or even spark a fire. If a battery is going to be left idle for several days, many manufacturers recommend discharging it between 40% – 70% of its total power before storing it. It’s always best to store batteries in a cool, dry place (i.e., room temperature) that’s away from any heat sources, such as direct sunlight, and clear of any flammable materials, such as carpet. Then charge the battery to 100% when you’re ready to fly. 

 

Mistake 2: Flying with less than 20% battery power in reserve 

It’s important to plan flights where your drone can comfortably return home with at least 20% battery power left in reserve. If you regularly push the limits of your battery’s charge, you’ll likely shorten the lifespan and reliability of your battery. Saving this extra battery power can also help manage any unforeseen circumstances, such as counteracting high winds or hovering until your landing zone is clear. Although it sounds complex, drone pilots can easily evaluate airspace classes, no fly zones, location insights, and advanced weather intelligence to see where it’s safe to fly using our free SkyGrid Flight Control app. 

 

Mistake 3: Flying without updating your firmware 

Just like the apps on our phones, a drone’s firmware requires regular upgrades from its developers to add new features, address bugs, or improve security measures. That’s why it’s critical to always ensure your firmware is up to date before taking flight. If you’re planning a complex flight or a commercial operation, it’s best practice to update the firmware the day before. This will allow you to download the update with a good Internet connection and ensure everything is working properly.  

 

Mistake 4: Flying near power lines 

Flying too close to power lines may affect your drone’s signal. But more importantly, you also risk sparking a power outage or fire if your drone touches the power lines. This is especially dangerous in dry climates, such as in California, where wildfires are common. You can check the wildfire risk in your area through apps like SkyGrid Flight Control that show the local fire index. But the bottom line is, always steer clear of power lines, especially when the fire index is high.  

 

Mistake 5: Flying without reading your local drone laws 

Although the FAA regulates the national U.S. airspace, state and local municipalities often have additional drone rules and regulations, so make sure you’re aware of them. Local laws might include restrictions around flying near historic sites or residential properties. The Pilot Institute recently created a handy wiki resource to help drone pilots stay on top of regulatory changes in each state. 

Stay tuned for Part 3 where we’ll focus on Flying in Adverse Conditions. In the meantime, check out our new drone app to check the risk in your area and advanced weather intelligence. 

 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.

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Top Drone Mistakes (Part 1): Misinterpreting New FAA Drone Rules

FAA drone rules

Getting started as a new drone pilot can be intimidating. There are a lot of FAA drone rules and best practices to follow that often use confusing language and change on a regular basis. To clear up some of the confusion, we’re kicking off a new series to help pilots avoid the top drone mistakes in 2021 and beyond. No matter if you’re a new drone hobbyist or an experienced commercial pilot, this series will be a good reminder of what NOT to do when operating drones.

In Part 1, we’re focused on the misconceptions around the new FAA drone rules, including operations over people, vehicles, and at night.
 

Mistake 1: Flying directly over people with exposed propellers

You may have heard the news that the FAA will allow drones to fly over people without a waiver, but keep in mind this rule is limited to certain conditions. There are four different categories of aircraft eligibility, and in all cases, the drone must contain no exposed rotating parts that could lacerate human skin. Drones with propeller guards are eligible as long as they prevent the blades from causing lacerations.

The total drone weight must also be 0.55 pounds or less. If the drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds, additional conditions are required, such as a declaration of compliance, label requirements, and potential injury limitations. You can read the FAA’s full list of rules for flights over people here for more details. They’re expected to go into effect starting March 2021.
 

Mistake 2: Flying over moving vehicles for a sustained timeframe

The FAA also announced drones can now fly over moving vehicles under certain conditions. For starters, drones must meet the same requirements for flying over people. The drone must also remain within a closed/restricted access site where everyone is on notice that an unmanned aircraft may fly over their vehicle.

If you’re not within a closed/restricted access site, drones are not permitted to maintain sustained flight over moving vehicles. Sustained flight is defined as hovering, flying back and forth, or circling the area. That means drones can still briefly fly over moving vehicles if they’re in transit to another location. These new rules will be effective 60 days after the FAA’s official publication, so likely March 2021.
 

Mistake 3: Flying at night without anti-collision lights & proper training

Flying at night was also permitted by the new FAA drone rules, but drones must have a flashing anti-collision light that’s visible for at least 3 statute miles. It’s also required for drone operators to complete a Part 107 knowledge test or recurrent online training for those who already completed the initial test. The FAA is currently updating the testing and training materials to add new information about night operations.
 

Mistake 4: Flying commercially without proof of your Remote Pilot Certificate

A Remote Pilot Certificate (a.k.a. a drone license) is required to operate drones under the FAA’s Part 107 rules, which are primarily meant for operators flying for business, a commercial enterprise, nonprofit work, or for educational purposes. Keep in mind that any drone operation that results in direct compensation or used to advance any business can be considered commercial use and will require a drone license.

The new FAA drone rules require Part 107 pilots to have their certification in possession when operating drones. To obtain a certificate, drone operators must pass an initial in-person knowledge test. Pilots are no longer required to pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months, which previously cost $160. Instead, the FAA plans to offer a free online recurrent training, which will be required to fly at night. This training is expected to be available at faasafety.gov in March 2021.
 

Mistake 5: Flying without registering your drone

All drone pilots are required to register their drone with the FAA, unless it weighs 0.55 pounds or less and is flown exclusively under the rules for recreational flyers. Registration costs $5 and is valid for 3 years. It can be done via the FAA DroneZone website. Once complete, pilots are required to label their drone with the registration number.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll focus on the top drone mistakes when flying near restricted areas. In the meantime, check out our new drone app to help simplify compliance when planning your flights.
 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.

Remote ID for Drones: Your Guide to the FAA’s New Rule

remote ID drones

Today, more than 1.7 million drones and 203,000 remote pilots are registered with the FAA, and these numbers are growing every day. However, the lack of a drone identification system has been a long-standing barrier to the scalability of unmanned aircraft. That barrier will soon be broken down. The FAA recently unveiled their final remote ID rule that will require drones to broadcast their location in the United States.

We’ll break down the basics of remote ID and what the new rule means for drone operators.
 

What is remote ID?

Remote ID technology, also known as a digital license plate, helps identify unmanned aircraft operating in the airspace. The FAA aims to create a comprehensive remote ID system where every drone in-flight broadcasts a unique identifier. This would allow authorities to identify any drone in the airspace and connect it with a registered pilot, much like an automobile license plate identifies a vehicle and the vehicle’s owner.
 

Why is remote ID important for drones?

First, remote ID technology can help aviation authorities provide situational awareness to other aircraft and identify unauthorized drones that may pose a security threat. Remote identification can also help law enforcement hold drone operators accountable if they violate any nuisance or privacy laws.

Secondly, remote ID efforts will help lay the foundation for more complex drone operations, such as flying over people, vehicles, or at night. Without a waiver, these operations were previously prohibited under the FAA’s Part 107 regulations. Remote identification is the first step to enable these advanced operations without requiring a waiver. In fact, the FAA recently announced they would begin allowing flights over people, vehicles, and at night under certain conditions.

Finally, a comprehensive remote ID system can help increase public trust in drone operations by providing assurances that the drones operating nearby are legal and safe.
 

What is the FAA’s final remote ID rule?

Under the final rule, all drones required to register with the FAA must enable remote identification. This would apply to all drones in the United States unless the drone weighs 0.55 pounds or less and is flown exclusively under the rules for recreational flyers. Drone operators can also choose to fly in a FAA-Recognized Identification Area where drones without remote ID are allowed to fly.

Otherwise, the rule requires the following data to be broadcasted: the drone’s serial number or an anonymous session ID; the drone’s position, altitude, and velocity; the position and altitude of the control station; emergency status; and time mark.
 

What’s required for drone operators to comply with remote ID?

In short, drone operators will have one of three methods for complying:

  1. Standard Remote ID Unmanned Aircraft: Drone pilots can operate a standard remote ID drone that broadcasts the required data directly from the drone via radio frequency broadcast (likely Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology). The remote ID data will be available to most personal wireless devices within range of the broadcast. However, the rule states that correlating the serial number or session ID with the registered drone will be limited to the FAA. This information can also be made available to authorized law enforcement and national security personnel upon request. This method is most likely to enable beyond visual line of sight operations, depending on the broadcast range of the drone.
  2. Unmanned Aircraft with a Remote ID Broadcast Module: Drone pilots can also operate a drone with a remote ID broadcast module (may be a separate device attached to the drone). This would enable the retrofit of existing drones that don’t have remote ID capabilities. However, this method would require all drones to operate within visual line of sight.
  3. FAA-Recognized Identification Areas (FRIA): Drone pilots can also choose to operate a drone without remote ID, but at specific FAA-Recognized Identification Areas. No FAA-Recognized Identification Areas have been announced yet, but regulators will start approving applications for new zones in 2022. Organizations eligible to apply for establishment of a FRIA include community-based organizations recognized by the FAA, primary and secondary educational institutions, trade schools, colleges, and universities.

FAA remote ID rules

(Source: FAA)
 

When does the remote ID rule go into effect?

The final rule will take effect 30 months after publication. That means by the end of Summer 2023, remote ID will be mandatory for all qualifying drones in the United States. At this time, drone manufacturers will be required to produce drones that are compliant with the rule, and drone pilots will be required to fly a compatible drone.

It’s also worth noting that under the standard remote ID method, drone operators will not be able to disable the remote ID technology. The drone is required to self-test pre-flight and will not take off if remote ID isn’t functioning.

You can read the FAA’s fine print for more remote ID details here.

Ultimately, SkyGrid is committed to providing the solutions drone pilots need to simplify their operations and comply with FAA regulations as they evolve. Stay tuned for more updates from SkyGrid in the coming months.

In the meantime, be sure to check out our free drone app: SkyGrid Flight Control. The all-in-one app makes it easy to explore airspace, get LAANC, automate flights, and detect objects in real-time.
 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.

AI Meets Drones: Detecting Objects In-Flight with Computer Vision

drone computer vision

Over the last two to three years, artificial intelligence has been a game changer for the drone industry. AI can be used to autonomously execute safe flight plans, predict drone maintenance needs, and protect drones from cybersecurity attacks.

During flight, AI can also be used to detect and track objects of interest in real-time through computer vision. This powerful technology is opening the door to new drone use cases that were previously unimaginable. It can help improve emergency response, animal conservation, perimeter security, site inspections, and much more.

Our free SkyGrid Flight Control app is equipped with computer vision to detect people, vehicles, animals, and other key objects in real-time as drone operators autonomously surveil a defined area. Get the scoop below and read on for more details.


 

What is computer vision?

Computer vision is a field of artificial intelligence that trains computers to identify, interpret, and track objects in imagery and video. The technology is driven by pattern recognition. It’s trained by feeding computer models thousands to millions of images with labeled objects. This allows the algorithms to establish a profile (e.g., color, shape) for each object to then identify the objects in unlabeled images.

Thanks to advances in machine learning and neural networks, computer vision has made great leaps in recent years and can often surpass the human eye in detecting and labeling certain objects. One of the driving factors behind this growth is the amount of data we generate that can be used to train computer vision models more accurately.
 

How does SkyGrid’s computer vision work?

Our computer vision is powered by a well-known neural network called YOLO, short for You Only Look Once. The YOLO object detection model is especially popular for real-time on-device systems because it is both small and very fast, while still maintaining high levels of accuracy. The models have been trained to recognize 80 different categories of common objects, such as people, cars, trucks, animals, electronics, and other objects. As a result, the SkyGrid Flight Control app achieves near real-time object detection (about 10-20 frames per second on an iPad) through a drone’s live video stream. See example below.

drone computer vision

SkyGrid Flight Control also enables users to select a detected object and track it through a drone’s live video feed. The algorithm itself is very performant, running at 60+ frames per second on an iPad.

drone object detection

Why kind of use cases can drone computer vision enable?

Our computer vision capabilities can support a wide variety of recreational and commercial drone use cases. It can help identify a missing person during a search and rescue operation or detect potential threats near critical infrastructure, such as an oil pipeline or high-security building. It can be used to count cars in parking lots to predict retail earnings or used to monitor wildlife to detect potential poachers. It can even help monitor social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For enterprise customers, SkyGrid can train models to detect and track custom objects based on the mission objectives. For example, models could be trained to detect hurricane debris to help identify the most damaged areas in need of assistance. They could be trained to detect defects in solar panels to help improve the power output from a solar farm. Or they could be trained to detect sharks at the surface of the water to prevent attacks at popular beaches.
 

How will your computer vision capabilities evolve?

We’re constantly improving our computer vision models to make our object detection and tracking features more performant, robust, and specialized. Today, drone operators will see greater detection accuracy with a head-on view, which often requires flying at a lower altitude. In the coming months, we’re working to optimize this capability to improve accuracy at higher altitudes and maximize the usability to users. Stay tuned for more updates!
 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.

 

5 Steps to Improve Your Drone Pre-Flight Checklist

drone pre-flight checklist

Checking your drone before flight is a standard practice. Many drone operators have an established routine that often includes recharging the battery and controller, updating the firmware, recalibrating the compass, assessing the propellers, and confirming GPS connectivity.

But situation awareness is also critical for safe flight. In low altitude airspace, conditions can shift rapidly and unpredictably, so it’s important to minimize risks by evaluating local conditions in the air and on the ground.

We recommend adding the following steps to your drone pre-flight checklist to up-level your situational awareness and make safer flight decisions.
 

1. Understand microweather conditions

As many operators can attest, weather conditions such as wind, temperature, and precipitation can have a major impact on drone hardware and overall success of the flight. The challenge is traditional weather sources often take 20 minutes to update and provide high-level data over a wide 2,000- to 4,000-meter radius.

Microweather data on the other hand is far more localized with updates every 60 seconds and details within a 500-meter radius, including precipitation, temperature, wind, cloud cover, visibility, and more.

Our free SkyGrid Flight Control app provides this hyper-local weather data to help drone operators ensure they’re flying in optimal conditions based on the current temperature, cloud base, dew point, etc. This level of detail can also help avoid situations where rain or wind speeds unexpectedly increase during flight and damage the aircraft.

Drone weather

2. Evaluate roadway traffic

Unless flying in a remote location, it’s also important to add roadway traffic to your drone pre-flight checklist. This data can help operators avoid flying over congested areas that may pose a risk to vehicles and people on the ground.

Within SkyGrid Flight Control, the traffic layer can be turned on to see light vs. moderate vs. heavy traffic. High roadway traffic can be also be an indication of high pedestrian traffic. Operators can use this data to schedule their flights when the least amount of traffic is expected.

roadway traffic for drones

3. Assess the elevation

Checking the local elevation can also be beneficial for your drone pre-flight checklist. By identifying how elevation fluctuates in your area, operators can safely fly over varying terrain and maintain the desired altitude above ground level.

For example, you may need to fly under 100-feet altitude for missions that require high resolution imagery, such as a site inspection or search and rescue operation. Detailed elevation data can help you maintain this altitude as the ground level shifts throughout the flight.

The elevation layer in SkyGrid Flight Control shows the highest elevation points above ground level, which makes it easy to set optimal altitudes during the flight planning process.

drone elevation data

4. Check for local fires

Unfortunately, wildfires in the western region of the United States are becoming more frequent. This poses a couple different risks for drone operators. For starters, the heat and lack of visibility can lead to aircraft damage. But more importantly, your drone could interrupt the efforts of firefighters.

If a drone flies near a wildfire, fire response teams are often forced to ground their aircraft to avoid the potential of a midair collision. This could delay the airborne response to the fire and create a larger threat to people and property in the area. Unless involved in the firefighting operation, drone pilots should avoid flying near wildfires at all costs.

Drone operators can also check the local fire index to see what the wildfire risk is in their local area. The fire index layer in SkyGrid Flight Control app indicates the highest risk in red and the lowest risk in yellow. Operators should be extra cautious in areas with a high risk.

drone pre-flight checklist

5. Evaluate airspace classes & advisories

Hopefully this step is already part of your drone pre-flight checklist, but if not, it’s a critical one! Before taking flight, drone operators should check the airspace classes and altitude ceilings in their area. If flying in U.S. controlled airspace (Class A, B, C, D or E), flight authorization is required.

The airspace map in SkyGrid Flight Control identifies each airspace class and displays the pre-approved ceilings where LAANC is available for auto-approval. But no matter if you’re flying in controlled airspace or not, it’s always important to check for drone flight restrictions in your area. These FAA restrictions are often issued around military bases and high-security events. Operators who violate these flight restrictions may be subject to civil penalties and criminal charges.

SkyGrid Flight Control shows both part-time and full-time National Security UAS Flight Restrictions (NSUFRs). See example of UAS flight restrictions shown in red below.

drone pre-flight checklist restrictions
Detailed, up-to-date data is critical to minimize flight risks, especially when you consider how quicky conditions can change in low-altitude airspace. Our free SkyGrid Flight Control makes it easy to improve your situational awareness with advanced airspace, regulatory, and location data.
 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control today to start adding these steps to your drone pre-flight checklist.

Drone Automation Made Easy for Commercial Pilots

drone pipeline inspection

Drones are disrupting a wide variety of industries and innovating outdated business models. Just in the last few months, drones delivered test kits and disinfected outdoor surfaces to help fight COVID-19. They assessed hurricane damage and delivered aid to the most devastated areas. And they inspected pipelines to prevent leaks in the oil and gas industry.

But as an organization’s fleet grows, it’s not feasible to manually execute every flight that’s delivering a package, conducting an inspection, or responding to an emergency. Drone automation is critical to safely scale operations and enable more advanced missions.

At SkyGrid, we’re solving this challenge with a smarter drone solution that automates every phase of flight. Our free SkyGrid Flight Control app makes it easy to generate flight plans, get auto-approval to fly, and autonomously execute the mission.

Check out a quick overview of our drone automation capabilities and read on for more details.


 

How does SkyGrid automate drone operations?

In our last post about drone flight planning, we explored how SkyGrid Flight Control enables operators to automatically generate mission plans based on their flight parameters, such as the start and end time, altitude, speed, and distance between sweeps. Once the mission plan is finalized, our app also allows operators to autonomously launch their drone, perform the pre-defined flight plan, and get real-time insights.

More specifically, operators can take the follow actions during flight:

  • Autonomously execute single and multi-objective missions.
  • Monitor your drone’s real-time camera feed.
  • Leverage AI computer vision to automatically detect objects and act on the information in real-time.
  • View real-time mission progress as you execute a flight plan.
  • Pause and resume your mission.
  • Take photos and videos during flight.
  • View native control functions, like camera settings, speed, heading and more.

For example, first responders can monitor the live feed to identify a lost or missing person during a search and rescue operation. As the drone autonomously surveils the defined area, our AI computer vision will help detect the missing person in real-time, enabling first responders to quickly identify the coordinates and evaluate conditions for ground accessibility.

Operators also have the option to manually take control of the flight at any point in time during an automated mission. For example, during a perimeter surveillance mission, an operator may identify an object of interest in the live video feed and take control to inspect the object more closely.

The example below shows the live video feed during flight. With object detection turned on, pilots can automatically identify objects, such as vehicles, people, and animals, in real-time.

drone automation

What drone automation features are available for enterprises?

For enterprise customers, we can optimize flight planning and execution with artificial intelligence. Our AI algorithms can analyze crucial data, such as airspace traffic, weather forecasts, roadway traffic, and vehicle performance, to automatically generate optimal flight plans and autonomously adapt flights as conditions change. For extra safeguard measures, operators have the ability to approve the new flight plan before execution.

This approach can help solve the scalability issues enterprises are up against today. It removes the burden on drone operators to manually monitor weather changes, avoid buildings and infrastructure, navigate around roadway traffic, and comply with shifting regulatory dynamics. AI technology can more reliably analyze complex data layers to uncover hidden trends and adapt flights in the rapidly changing airspace.
 

Why use SkyGrid for drone automation?

Ultimately, we simplify drone operations with more automation in one end-to-end application. Rather than using several different apps to find up-to-date weather and environmental information, get LAANC approval, plan flights, and execute missions, SkyGrid Flight Control provides a complete solution to automate flight authorization, planning, and execution. We do the heavy lifting so operators can focus on overseeing the success of the mission.

We’re excited about the new features and functionality we have coming down the pipeline to further automate drone operations. Stay tuned for more updates!
 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.

Automate Drone Flight Planning with SkyGrid Flight Control

No matter your mission, whether to inspect a pipeline, respond to an emergency, or secure a perimeter, the drone flight planning process shouldn’t be so complex. The burden typically falls on drone operators to manually plan and execute their flights, but it’s often a laborious, time-consuming process.

At SkyGrid, we’re simplifying this process with more automation and efficiency.

Our free SkyGrid Flight Control app provides a complete solution to check airspace, get LAANC, automate flights, and detect objects in real-time. We eliminate the manual workflows by automating drone flight planning and autonomously executing the mission.

Get the scoop from our product team and read on for more details.


 

What kind of missions can drone operators plan?

SkyGrid Flight Control automatically generates mission plans based on the drone operator’s flight parameters, such as start and end time, desired speed, altitude, and location. The different types of missions operators can choose from include:

Area Exploration Missions

Our area exploration capabilities enable drone operators to automatically generate sweep missions to surveil a defined area. Operators can specify the altitude they want to fly, the mission speed, and the distance between sweeps based on their objectives. For example, an operator conducting a search and rescue mission may opt for 30-foot sweeps to ensure no area is left unchecked, while an operator surveilling a construction site may select 100-foot sweeps to get a high-level view of construction progress.

drone sweep mission

Path Missions

Our path missions enable drone pilots to generate routes that follow a set of sequential waypoints. This approach could be useful for a wide variety of missions across public safety, inspections, security, and more. For example, operators can generate a path mission to inspect oil and gas pipelines, monitor swimmers along a beach shoreline, or surveil a perimeter around a high-security building.

During drone flight planning, operators can choose to have the drone auto-land at the end of the path or return home after the mission is complete.

drone waypoint mission

Multi-Objective Missions

Drone operators can also create more complex mission plans with multiple objectives. For example, in the event of a traffic incident, law enforcement agencies could generate a path mission to the incident and combine it with an area exploration mission to gather situational awareness before emergency teams arrive.

drone flight planning

Free Flight Missions

Our app also offers free flight capabilities, enabling operators to create flight boundaries where they can freely operate their drone. This could be beneficial for recreational drone pilots, as it allows pilots to get LAANC in controlled airspace without requiring a flight plan.

Free flight missions can also benefit commercial operators, especially when the area is less defined. For example, in response to a natural disaster, emergency responders can set up a free flight mission around a neighborhood to detect people, vehicles, or animals in destress with our AI computer vision. The free flight capabilities allow them to hone in on the most damaged areas within the neighborhood in real time.

drone flight boundaries

Object-Centric Missions

For enterprise customers, we also offer object-centric missions to automatically generate flight plans around vertical assets and structures, such as bridges, towers, and refineries. This capability can help simplify infrastructure and utility inspections. Based on the mission objectives, our AI computer vision models can also be trained to detect defects, recognize parts, and more.
 

Why use SkyGrid for drone flight planning?

Bottom line: we do the heavy lifting in the flight planning process. Based on your mission objectives, SkyGrid Flight Control will automatically generate a flight plan and autonomously execute the mission. Once a flight plan has been saved, operators can repeat the mission as often as needed. This simplifies routine inspections and surveillance missions that are conducted on a regular basis.

And with LAANC integrated directly in the drone flight planning process, we make compliance easy. We check all flight details to inform the operator if they’re eligible for auto-approval or if modifications are required to comply with LAANC. We also alert users of nearby stadiums, infrastructure, and other factors that may violate the Part 107 rules.
 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.