Drone Automation Made Easy with SkyGrid Flight Control

Drone automation made easy with SkyGrid Flight Control

Drones have been the subject of interest in recent times for the convenience, flexibility, and efficiency they offer. More than that, their potential to possibly revolutionize certain processes, businesses, and industries has been apparent. They assess hurricane damage, deliver aid to devastated areas, inspect pipelines to prevent leaks in the oil and gas industry, and they have been used to develop reliable railway inspection systems.  

However, planning, executing, and adapting a flight within the complexity of the airspace is no easy task, and relying on manual effort could prove to be a mistake. After all, humans are error-prone. Drone automation is critical to scale operations safely 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 recent posts, we explored how SkyGrid Flight Control simplifies the flight approval process by integrating LAANC directly into the flight planning workflow. That means drone operators can seamlessly plan their mission, ensure their flight meets all LAANC criteria, and get auto-approval to fly. Rather than planning a mission after LAANC authorization, this approach ensures that all requirements are checked before you take flight. 

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

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

  • Autonomously execute single and multi-objective missions. 
  • Monitor your drone’s real-time camera feed. 
  • View real-time mission progress as you execute a flight plan. 
  • Pause and resume your mission. 
  • Take photos and videos during the flight. 
  • View native control functions, like camera settings, speed, heading and more. 

For example, gathering rapid situational awareness is crucial in search and rescue (SAR) situations. The faster rescue teams can locate a missing or injured person and coordinate a ground team response; the more likely the operation will result in a positive outcome. SkyGrid optimizes the distribution of drones over a defined space, calculating the most efficient routes for a vehicle within a given time frame. Drone operators can either define the area they wish to survey and the size of their fleet to determine the time necessary to survey a site or define the area and time required for a survey to determine the optimal search pattern to complete a mission.  

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 pipeline inspection, an operator may identify an object of interest in the live video feed and take control to inspect the object more closely. 

Drone automation for pipeline inspection

Drone automation made easy for commercial pilots. 

We’re using AI and blockchain to interpret complex airspace, environment and vehicle data, solving the industry’s biggest challenges in executing autonomous drone operations and integrating unmanned aircraft into rapidly changing airspace. 

SkyGrid uses AI to uncover previously invisible characteristics hidden in airspace, vehicle, and location data to more intelligently monitor, route, synchronize and maintain unmanned operations. In addition to ingesting unique data feeds, such as cellular connectivity maps and ground-based traffic patterns, SkyGrid fills a former unsolved gap in airspace information by including real-time drone sensor data in our understanding of airspace. 

Our AI algorithms can analyze crucial data, such as drone sensor data and activity history, to provide visibility into vehicle health, aircraft performance and required maintenance. This helps us identify performance issues before they jeopardize the safety of people, infrastructure and other aircraft around them. 

We use blockchain to provide next-generation security and auditability, safeguarding the integrity of unmanned flight data and encoding airspace rules into flight operations as mandatory flight parameters. Airspace boundaries, thresholds, and safety parameters are encoded as blockchain rules to mandate compliance. All information transmitted through our system, including flight plans and historical logs, is tamper-proof and can never be altered. Past flight and service logs are easily accessible with telemetry data on when and where each flight occurred. 

SkyGrid is a unified platform that provides frictionless, end-to-end services for the drone ecosystem. Our integrated system enables everything from airspace management to fleet operations, offering a single platform that continuously monitors, predicts, and adapts to changing regulatory dynamics, aircraft performance, and location information, enabling a new degree of autonomy. 

Ultimately, we simplify drone operations with more automation in one application for pilots and enterprises. 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.  

 

Download SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the Apple App Store. You can also check our advanced enterprise features for more complex commercial drone operations.

Automation, AI & Blockchain: The keys to unlock BVLOS

Automation, AI & Blockchain

As drone technology becomes increasingly automated, the level of human involvement is shifting from remote pilots in the field to remote operators in the office. This approach can enable more scalability and operational oversight as enterprises grow their drone fleets to inspect pipelines, monitor crops, or survey infrastructure. However, several barriers still exist when it comes to safely enabling Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations. 

Let’s explore some of the things that are required to unlock BVLOS operations, including remote automation, safety & compliance rule enforcement, AI-powered cybersecurity, and more. 

Drones are disrupting various industries and innovating outdated business models. BVLOS enables UAVs to operate beyond the normal vision range of the pilot. BVLOS capabilities are becoming a quintessential aspect of the drone industry. They provide numerous benefits over the regular line of sight flights. They are cost-effective, energy-efficient with fewer takeoffs and landing phases, cover significant ground in a single flight, and drones’ low-altitude flying capability can help in high-resolution data collection.  

In many cases, businesses need to operate drones beyond visual line of sight to complete a wide range of missions, such as assessing hurricane damage and delivering aid to the devastated areas or inspecting pipelines to prevent leaks in the oil and gas industry. That means they’ll need more advanced technology in place to identify other aircraft, stay up to date on airspace changes, and safely reroute drones to avoid potential hazards. Let’s first consider the challenges commercial drone operators are facing today. 

Airspace management   

We all know there are many benefits to launching a drone operation, but navigating low-altitude airspace is complex. The burden has fallen on drone operators to manually evaluate the airspace, plan their flight paths, and avoid hazards as conditions change. But this approach isn’t scalable when you consider the volume of data operators are expected to evaluate for a successful mission. 

Today’s systems require too many manual workflows that limit scalability and leave room for error in the rapidly changing airspace. Drone operators are expected to monitor weather changes, avoid buildings and construction cranes, factor in risks on the ground, and comply with shifting regulatory dynamics. The burden typically falls on them to manually plan, execute, and adapt their flights as these conditions change.   

At the same, drone operators are challenged by disconnected systems. They typically have to use several different tools to check airspace conditions, plan and execute missions, and gather insights. But it’s a cumbersome process that leads to disconnected information as operators switch between different applications. 

  • Traffic: For starters, operators need to check airspace traffic, including both manned and unmanned traffic, to maintain safe separation. To minimize public safety risks, operators also need to evaluate activity on the ground below, such as roadway and foot traffic. 
  • Regulations: From a regulatory standpoint, they also need to check airspace classes and boundaries and monitor shifting dynamics, such as temporary flight restrictions and notices to airmen.  
  • Weather: Access to micro-weather data is also important to check precipitation, wind, temperature, and visibility. These factors can impact the flight path, battery life, and overall success of the mission.  
  • Infrastructure: Drone operators also need to evaluate local buildings, bridges, schools, stadiums, and airports to navigate around densely populated areas.   
  • Environment: They also must also check the local elevation and terrain to avoid potential hazards.   
Security and safety  

Those are just the external factors operators are expected to evaluate. Operators also have to consider the health and security of their aircraft. They’re ultimately responsible for protecting their drones from both intentional acts, such as cyber threats, and unintentional acts, such as hardware malfunction.  

  • Aircraft health: This requires operators to continuously monitor their vehicle health, but that becomes a lot more challenging as a fleet grows.  
  • Aircraft security: From a security perspective, operators also are expected to protect their drones from malicious activity. Just like the computers we use today, drones can be hacked if not appropriately secured, posing dangers to people and property on the ground.  
Automation, AI & Blockchain 

The bottom line is it’s not feasible to manually monitor and interpret this exceptional volume of data at scale. A new approach is required to simplify drone operations with a connected system that automates every phase of flight, removes the burden on drone operators, and allows operators to focus on overseeing the mission’s success. This is where advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain can help.  

AI algorithms are trained to analyze a large volume, variety, and velocity of data and instantly act on the insights. These algorithms automatically learn from patterns to uncover and act on trends hidden from the human eye. 

In technical terms, blockchain is a distributed ledger of immutable records stored in a decentralized database. In layman’s terms, it enables safe and accurate record-keeping across a network of computers, allowing multiple parties to interact with the same universal source of truth using a private key. “Smart contracts” are also a key component of blockchain technology. Smart contracts can be encoded on any blockchain to set rules mutually agreed upon by network members and automatically execute the terms without human intervention.  

When used in parallel, these advanced technologies can help eliminate manual workflows and enable safe BVLOS operations. Let’s walk you through a few examples.  

Automated flights:  

AI algorithms can be trained to calculate the optimal route for one or more drones based on the mission parameters, such as the start and endpoint, desired cruise altitude, timeframe, and payload details. These algorithms can also factor in airspace, vehicle, and location data, such as weather, terrain, population density, and roadway traffic, to generate routes that minimize risks in the air and on the ground.  

During the flight, the AI models will monitor, predict, and adapt to conditions as they change. This approach essentially removes the burden on commercial operators by enabling autonomous workflows that are safe and scalable as a fleet grows.  

Mandated compliance:  

When it comes to regulatory compliance, blockchain augmented with smart contracts can encode the airspace rules, such as flying below 400 feet during daylight hours, as mandatory parameters in a flight planning system. Organizations can also use this technology to set additional company-wide safety standards for their commercial drone operations, such as flying with at least 20% battery life under 25 mph winds.  

The blockchain smart contracts automatically record information onto the ledger and execute the terms without human intervention. This approach helps automate compliance with the rules before flight authorization and during flight as airspace conditions change. It also helps ensure all drone operators associated with your organization are following the same rulebook. 

Predictive maintenance 

When it comes to monitoring your vehicle health, predictive AI technology can remove the burden on operators by analyzing sensor data across your fleet and flagging suboptimal operations. An AI-based approach can more accurately monitor performance to forecast vehicle health and identify impending failures before they occur.  

If a potential issue is identified, such as a degrading battery, AI technology can automatically generate a maintenance request and assign the request to a technician upon landing at a facility. Blockchain technology, augmented with smart contracts, can also ensure the maintenance request is resolved and signed off by a technician’s private key before the drone can operate again. 

AI-powered cybersecurity 

In the emerging UAV environment, new security threats will often take the form of previously unseen, “zero-day” attacks. Traditional anti-malware software, dependent on signatures of known threats, won’t be adequate to detect this unknown malware. AI-powered cybersecurity will be critical to detect malicious activity on the edge and prevent it from executing on a drone.  

An AI-based approach can learn the DNA of what a malicious file might look like instead of relying on an existing threat database. This approach protects drones from never-before-seen attacks and can still function when network connectivity is non-existent or impaired. 

Systems today are largely disconnected and still rely on humans to manually plan their flights, comply with regulations, and adapt to changing conditions. Advanced technologies like AI and blockchain can enable a new, automated approach. This approach still relies on human input, but it allows more scalability by automatically planning, executing, and adapting flights as conditions change. It also enables enterprises to scale their drone operations by ensuring all pilots associated with their organization remain compliant with the regulations, business rules, and safety standards.

To learn how SkyGrid’s AerialOS can help improve your BVLOS operations, check out our overview page here or learn more about our advanced enterprise features.

 

All-in-One Drone App for Pilots and Enterprises

SkyGrid Fllight Control All-in-One Drone App for Pilots and Enterprises

In case you missed it, we launched our all-in-one drone app, SkyGrid Flight Control, on the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad users across the world. After the positive response to our iPad application in the US, we had to make our app available to a global audience of drone users.  

SkyGrid Flight Control All-in-One Drone App

The skies are opening up for the drone industry, and SkyGrid Flight Control™ is leading the flock. As the only drone application powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technologies, SkyGrid Flight Control enables drone operators to manage their entire drone workflow with an all-in-one application, facilitating safe, secure, and efficient drone operations. 

We set out to solve the challenges many drone operators face today by automating every phase of flight in one solution, eliminating the manual workflows, and allowing drone operators to safely explore our shared airspace. 

Our easy-to-use airspace map includes advanced weather, location, and regulatory insights to make more informed decisions before you fly. Our drone flight planner minimizes manual workflows with automated mission plans and autonomous flight execution. As an FAA-approved UAS Service Supplier of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) 4.0., SkyGrid also provides authorization to fly in controlled airspace in near-real-time.  

SkyGrid Flight Control All-in-One Drone App for Pilots and Enterprises

So why use SkyGrid for your drone operations? Bottom line, we do the heavy lifting. Our app makes it easy to explore the airspace and automate airspace authorization, mission planning, and flight execution to simplify your drone operations. 

Learn more about the app experience in our latest video: 

Stay tuned as we’ll have more insights to share from our product experts in the coming weeks! 

In the meantime, you can get started today by downloading SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the Apple App Store. You can also check out our advanced enterprise features, such as geofencing, custom object detection, and multi-drone missions, for more complex drone operations. 

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.

 

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.

SkyGrid Flight Control: An All-in-One Drone App

SkyGrid

In case you missed it, SkyGrid just launched the first all-in-one drone app. What does that mean exactly? It means pilots can manage their entire drone workflow from airspace exploration and authorization… to flight planning and execution… to real-time insights… all within SkyGrid Flight Control™.

Free drone app

We recognized the challenge many drone operators are facing today by using several different tools to check airspace, get LAANC, plan flights, and safely execute them. It’s a cumbersome process that requires too many manual workflows and can lead to disconnected information as you switch between different applications.

We set out to solve this challenge by automating every phase of flight in one drone app. SkyGrid Flight Control automates flight authorization, planning, and execution to radically simplify your operations.

And we’re the only drone app built on artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies. Our AI computer vision enables real-time object detection while our patented blockchain system provides enhanced data privacy of all pilot, flight, and drone data stored within the app.

Learn more about the app experience in our latest video:

We’ll have more insights to share from our product experts in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

In the meantime, you can get started today by downloading SkyGrid Flight Control for free in the iPad App Store. You can also check out our advanced enterprise features, such as geofencing, custom object detection, and multi-drone missions, for more complex drone operations.

Happy flying!

Ali

Commercial Drone Operations: Automating the Manual Workflows

Commercial drone operations

Across every industry, commercial drone operations are creating new opportunities for enterprises, SMBs, and nonprofits to innovate their business models. Drones are optimizing last-mile deliveries, transporting urgent medical supplies, inspecting oil pipelines, and improving search and rescue efforts. In many cases, drone technology has proven to be a more efficient, cost-effective solution, filling the gaps where traditional ways of doing business have fallen short.

It’s fair to say there are many benefits to launching a commercial drone operation, but where do you begin? The process can feel daunting, and understandably so. Businesses have several responsibilities to ensure their operation is safe, secure, and compliant. To name a few…

  • Regulatory compliance: Commercial operators in the U.S. are required to obtain a remote pilot certificate, register their drones, and receive airspace authorization. During flight, they’re also expected to comply with Part 107 regulations unless a waiver has been approved for more advanced operations, such as flying beyond visual line of sight, at night, or over people.
  • Flight operations: Commercial operators are expected to plan and execute their flights and share operational data with the UAS traffic management (UTM) ecosystem. Accurate, up-to-date flight plans are required to optimize the airspace and avoid unnecessary deconfliction.
  • Aircraft deconfliction: Operators are responsible for staying on top of changes in the airspace and adapting their flights accordingly. This requires operators to monitor airspace traffic, regulatory dynamics, and local conditions, such as weather, terrain, buildings, and risks on the ground.
  • Aircraft security: Businesses are responsible for protecting their commercial drone operation from both intentional acts (e.g., cyberthreats) and unintentional acts (e.g., human error, hardware malfunction), affecting people or property in the air or on the ground. This requires operators to continuously monitor their aircraft performance and detect any malicious activity.
  • Contingency management: In the event of a contingency, operators are responsible for notifying authorities and affected operators of the new flight plan and emergency status until the hazard is no longer a risk. Contingencies include an active flight that is undergoing a critical equipment failure, experiencing a loss of tracking capabilities, or operating outside the bounds of their intended flight path. In case an incident occurs, commercial drone operators also need to maintain high standards of auditability by recording all flight and service logs.

What if these responsibilities weren’t so daunting? What if there was a way to simplify how businesses plan, execute, and manage their commercial drone operation?

Fortunately, technology advancements in AI and blockchain are making it possible to eliminate the manual workflows and enable safe, autonomous operations. For example, when it comes to flight operations, AI technology can analyze crucial data, such as airspace traffic, weather forecasts, ground risks, and aircraft performance, to automatically generate optimal flight paths and autonomously adapt flights as conditions change.

When it comes to regulatory compliance, blockchain can encode the airspace rules, such as flying below 400 feet during daylight hours, as mandatory parameters in a flight planning system. Businesses can also use this technology to set company-wide safety standards for their commercial drone operations, such as flying with at least 20% battery life in reserve. The approach helps automate compliance and ensures all drone operators associated with your organization are following the same rulebook.

Check out our latest eBook to learn more about automating the manual workflows. This comprehensive guide will help prepare your organization for a safe, efficient, and scalable commercial drone operation.
 

Unmanned Traffic Management: 5 Challenges Solved by Blockchain

Unmanned traffic management

As drone technology advances, the use cases are evolving rapidly across the globe. Drones are supporting the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering test kits and disinfecting outdoor surfaces. They’re improving our response to hurricanes and floods by assessing damage and delivering aid to the most devastated areas. And they’re optimizing the oil and gas industry by inspecting pipelines and detecting leaks.

From retail and logistics to healthcare and energy, drone technology is disrupting a wide variety of industries and innovating old business models. But before we can realize its full potential, there are a few key challenges that must be addressed to solve unmanned traffic management (UTM) in the aviation industry at large:

  1. Enabling flight transparency: Real-time awareness of all unmanned flights is critical to optimize the airspace and avoid hazards that can put public safety at risk. This requires drone operators to share accurate, up-to-date flights plans with airspace authorities overseeing both manned and unmanned traffic. This becomes increasingly difficult as businesses operate a larger volume of drones to deliver packages, support emergency response, and conduct industrial inspections. We must simplify the process of sharing real-time flight data to enable better traceability and advance unmanned traffic management across the industry.
  2. Enforcing airspace compliance: Recent drone sightings near airports and critical infrastructure have exposed how drones can put lives at risk and cause major disruptions to operations. Due to rogue drones near the Gatwick Airport, flights were suspended for 30 hours and caused chaos for 140,000 passengers. Oftentimes, these incidents occur when drone operators unintentionally fly too close to an airport and too high in altitude. To avoid future incidents, it’s critical to minimize the potential for human error, particularly in high-risk areas near airports and urban environments.
  3. Advancing aircraft safety: The safety of our airspace also relies on the health of every drone, air taxi, or other unmanned aircraft in flight. A drone with a malfunctioning propeller or battery failure can unexpectedly interfere with the flight path of an airplane, helicopter, or another drone and put public safety in danger. As more aircraft begin sharing the sky, it’s important to ensure every drone is a healthy, high-performing vehicle.
  4. Protecting flight data integrity: In the wake of an incident, accurate flight data is critical to analyze the sequence of events and hold drone operators accountable. But authorities need assurances flight logs haven’t been tampered with by the drone operator or a third party. This requires the industry to ensure the integrity of data exchanged between operators, authorities, service suppliers, and other stakeholders.
  5. Improving industry collaboration: It’s also important to enable a common operating picture across the industry to solve unmanned traffic management. There are still many paper records used in manned aviation that can’t be relied on as the volume of unmanned flights grows. We must eliminate the need for paper documents and open the opportunity for more collaboration with digital records. However, it will be critical to maintain the privacy of confidential data, such as operator details and payload information, so it’s only accessible to authorized parties.

 

What’s the solution to these unmanned traffic management challenges?

 
Blockchain technology. In technical terms, blockchain is a distributed ledger of immutable records stored in a decentralized database. Although it sounds complex, this technology is the key to simplify flight transparency and create immutable audit trails.

In SkyGrid’s blockchain instance, each flight log can be stored in real-time and linked to the previous log with cryptography. That means all flight plans and historical drone data is tamper-proof and verifiable. The use of private keys ensures only authorized parties have access to confidential data.

Augmented with smart contracts, blockchain technology can have an even bigger impact in simplifying unmanned traffic management. It can help automate airspace compliance by encoding the rules as mandatory parameters in a flight planning system. And it can improve aircraft safety by requiring regular system checks and ensuring all maintenance needs are resolved.

Check out our latest whitepaper to learn more about blockchain and its ability to solve many of the biggest challenges in unmanned aviation.