UK tech startup claims “world first” with air traffic control system for drones

Cloud based software that offers real-time air traffic control for drones, could help address the growing safety concerns prompted by recent “near-misses” its developers have claimed.

Airspace Alerts, designed by software engineers at UK startup Altitude Angel, enables drone operators to specify ‘alert regions’ that the firm’s cloud platform monitors in real-time for low-flying manned aircraft, proactively sending a push notification via email or SMS to the drone operator to ensure they have time to move out of the way safely.

The technology watches aviation traffic globally in real-time, aggregating data from multiple sources. It receives around 12 million messages every minute, which are then filtered to provide updates on low-altitude air traffic (below 800m) – the kind that drone users need to be aware of.

“Once we have a filtered set of aircraft data, we perform analysis to determine if the aircraft’s trajectory is likely to encroach on an area our users are flying within, and can tell the drone operator where to look – and when – to help them avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Richard Parker, founder and CEO of Altitude Angel.

The service also features a drone Safety Map that helps operators identify no-fly zones or ground hazards around the world before they ‘take to the skies’, and will soon be able to send out important weather information, as well as alerts whenever no-fly zones are activated or deactivated.

The firm believes its service will contribute towards the safer integration of drones into our skies. Being able to ‘reach out’ to push important information to a drone pilot is absolutely critical to safety.

Under current legislation, drone operators and enthusiasts are personally responsible for making sure they are flying drones safely and complying with a variety of other regulations, which are often too complex for general drone pilots to understand.

“Drone pilots everywhere are crying out for better information,” said Parker. “The majority of people want to ‘do the right thing’ and check for no-fly zones, obstacles and relevant regulations before they fly, but many don’t have the training, time or even access to everything they’d need in order to make better safety choices. It’s the industry’s job to help solve this problem.”

“The more we can do to help drone operators identify risks, and minimise the chances of a collision between a drone and a manned aircraft, the more we increase safety, and the chances of the drone industry flourishing,” he added.