Project Wing Tackles the Issue of Drone Air Traffic Control

June 9, 2017 - 2 minutes read

As we reported last month, consumer drones sales increased a whooping 117% in between February 2016 and February 2017. Amazon is itching to launch its PrimeAir drone delivery project on a mass scale, and other companies are going to want to follow suit. So it’s high time that the world prepare for a proliferation of drones in the skies. As IoT app developers already know, it’s only legal to fly a drone if the operator can see it. But that law will have to change in order to open up the possibilities for companies like Amazon who require autonomous drone flight to take their services to the next level.

Enter Alphabet’s Project Wing team, who are testing a low-altitude air traffic control system at Virginia Tech. The project is perhaps best known for its totally awesome-sounding on-campus Chipotle burrito delivery system. Its latest project is a little more ambitious: regulating the chaos of drone flight. IoT app developers are rooting for a solution to the problem of drone traffic control so that the commercial potential for drones can really take off.

The Federal Aviation Administration has set up a test area for drones at VA Tech and is monitoring Project Wing’s work along with NASA. These tests are part of the FAA and NASA’s ongoing research into how to track and manage drone flight on a national scale. So far Project Wing has been successful at monitoring the flight paths of five drones at once, including three of its own drones, one from Intel, and another by DJI. Project Wing’s work relies in part on an automatic collision avoidance system and software that maps out routes for the drones and warns them when airspace restrictions pop up. For Bay Area IoT app developers, the success of these crash-free tests is an encouraging sign.

Several more Project Wing-like projects may soon appear now that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is encouraging localities to experiment with their own drone tracking systems. We’re optimistic that opening up the field for innovation will be a big benefit to IoT app developers ready for the skies to be swarming with drones.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,