A Holistic Approach to UAV Safety

SkyGrid Flight Control: A Holistic Approach to UAV Safety

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts the future of commercial UAS fleet by 2025. 

From autonomous drones to air taxis, the urban air mobility market has advanced rapidly over the last two to three years. These drones are performing real commercial tasks – they are delivering packages, conducting industrial inspections, providing emergency assistance, and will eventually transport people.  

Based on the latest data, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) predicts the commercial UAS fleet by 2025 will likely number 835,000 vehicles. 1.7 times larger than the current number of commercial sUAS. More drones are expected to take flight in coming years spanning a wide range of civilian and commercial use cases, but all this comes with as-yet unaddressed challenges. Drone data integrity, maintenance, and drone deconfliction need to be addressed. These issues range in severity from inconvenient to dangerous. On the one hand, significant growth in drone numbers and capability is incredibly exciting, however, this also presents a major challenge in terms of effectively protecting aircraft systems from being attacked by zero-day cybersecurity threats remotely. 

SkyGrid: A Holistic Approach to UAV Safety
Preventing Malicious Activity with AI-Powered Cybersecurity

With the rise of communication between people and devices and the rise of computing performance, aircraft such as drones are not immune to cybersecurity risks that have become prevalent and critical issues for other industries. Large numbers of airborne drones are essentially a network of flying computers in the sky. Just like the computers we use today, these drones can be hacked if not secured properly, posing dangers when they are flying close to a crowd of people or a busy highway. 

In this emerging 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, will not be adequate to detect such sophisticated, new malware.  

AI-powered cybersecurity holds the key to detecting malicious activity on the edge and preventing it from making its way on to a drone or executing on its computer systems. An AI-based approach can learn the DNA – the structure – of what a malicious file might look like instead of merely relying on an existing threat database. This type of technology can function even when network connectivity is non-existent or impaired and can defend drones against zero-day threats. AI-powered cybersecurity will be key in ensuring public safety by providing an adaptable system that protects against never-before-seen attacks.  

Leveraging machine learning technology combined with a “defense in depth” approach can provide multiple layers of protection for an endpoint. Cognitive cybersecurity solutions enable more advanced airspace security than traditional anti- malware systems which remain reliant on signatures of known threats. In contrast to known signatures, heuristics, or other dated rules-based approaches to detect security threats, the DeepArmor® product uses patented machine learning technology and a layered protection strategy to protect a drone’s endpoints. Not only can DeepArmor® protect drones from known threats, its machine-learning detection engine also uses advanced classification algorithms to predict and prevent zero-day attacks, enhancing protection. 

SkyGrid A Holistic Approach to UAV Safety
A new era of protection for drones in defense

DeepArmor® is already proven and effective in the commercial sector. Now, the technology can be extended for use on UAVs within the defense industry to counter national security threats. Considering emerging threats as seen in the capture of the RQ- 170 by Iran are now a fact of life, an AI-based approach is critical to detect and prevent such cyberattacks. The DeepArmor® Aerial product can provide this detection and protection by deploying directly on drone hardware even when network connectivity is impaired or non-existent. 

Boeing and SparkCognition’s joint venture, SkyGrid, is taking this new, intelligent approach to security by employing AI to detect and prevent cyberattacks from impacting a drone, a payload, or a ground station. Integrated with SkyGrid’s airspace management system, AerialOS™, the DeepArmor® product can be deployed directly on drone hardware to extend AI protection and defend drones from sophisticated cyber-attacks. 

By Zehra Akbar, VP, Strategy & Operations of SkyGrid. This article was originally published in Cognitive Times Vol.17. 

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

SkyGrid Flight Control: One app for airspace, flights, and insights

SkyGrid Flight Control - Automated drone operations for pilots and enterprises

As drone technology advances, its applications are evolving rapidly across the globe. Drones are delivering medical supplies, samples, and pharmaceuticals. They’re assessing hurricane damage and delivering aid to affected areas. And they’re surveying oil pipelines to inspect damage and prevent leaks. 

From retail and logistics to healthcare and energy, drones are disrupting a wide variety of industries and upending outdated business models. Even with all this progress, drone operations remain comp- lex and challenging. The burden falls on drone operators to manually plan, execute, and adapt their flights in the rapidly changing airspace. They’re expected to monitor weather changes, avoid buildings and construction cranes, navigate around roadway traffic, and comply with shifting regulatory dynamics. 

But this approach isn’t scalable. As an organization’s fleet grows, it’s not feasible to manually plan and execute every flight that’s delivering a package, conducting an inspection, or responding to an emergency. Automation is critical to safely scale drone operations and enable more advanced missions. 

SkyGrid is addressing this challenge with a smarter drone solution that automates every phase of flight. Powered by SkyGrid’s AerialOS™, SkyGrid Flight Control makes it easy for drone operators to explore the airspace, automate airspace authorization, mission planning, flight execution, object detection, and get real-time insights in one end-to-end solution. We eliminate manual workflows by automating drone flight planning and autonomously executing the mission.

SkyGrid Flight Control: Powering The Next Generation of Aviation

Here’s how it works: 

1. Check airspace conditions

SkyGrid Flight Control provides detailed airspace, regulatory, and location data to help drone operators make more informed flight decisions. Our airspace intelligence includes advanced weather data, such as precipitation, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, visibility, and more. Our regulatory data includes airspace classes and advisories from the FAA, such as UAS flight restrictions. And our location insights include local buildings, obstacles, population density, elevation, and roadway traffic. 

SkyGrid Flight Control Airspace Conditions

2. Generate a flight 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. Our drone mission planner minimizes manual workflows with automated mission planning and autonomous flight execution. Streamline operations with AI-based route planning, intelligent rerouting and automated deconfliction from aircraft and obstacles. 

3. Get flight authorization

As a trusted supplier of the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), SkyGrid provides real-time flight authorization in U.S. controlled airspace un- der 400 feet. We simplify compliance by integrating LAANC directly into the flight planning workflow. That means drone operators can seamlessly plan their mission, ensure their flight meets all FAA requirements, and get auto-approval to fly. 

SkyGrid Flight Control: One app for airspace, flights, and insights

4. Autonomously execute your flight

Once the flight plan is generated and authorized, operators can connect their drone to autonomously execute the pre-defined flight plan. With a Part 107 Waiver, SkyGrid Flight Control can also support multi-drone missions by optimizing the distribution of multiple drones over a defined area based on a defined timeframe or fleet size. Our live video feed allows operators to monitor each flight simultaneously and pause missions as needed. 

5. Detect objects in real-time

During flight, drone operators can also detect key objects, such as vehicles, people, and animals, with our AI computer vision. This technology can be a powerful tool to quickly gain situational awareness after a traffic incident, identify potential threats near critical infrastructure, or detect defects in an oil and gas pipeline. Based on the needs of the mission, our algorithms can be trained to detect and track customized objects. 

SkyGrid Flight Control: One app for airspace, flights, and insights

Ultimately, we believe in a future where millions of autonomous aircraft of all shapes and sizes will take to the skies to move our goods, improve our agriculture, augment our security, and even provide safe transportation. SkyGrid Flight Control is the first step toward enabling this future. 

 

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

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.