A project called Airmap has made life easier for two of the major consumer drone producers, DJI and 3D Robotics. The purpose of Airmap is to provide real-time, reliable access to no-fly-zone data. In the case of consumer drones, this can mean a lot more than simply military bases and airport areas.
A football arena can be off-limits because it is full of patrons, for instance, or potentially could be off-limits to drones all the time anyhow. Residential areas could eventually make use of the technology to politely tell drone operators to keep out, in another example.
In Airmap’s own words:
AirMap makes it easy to operate your drone safely, legally, and hassle-free.
Drone operators using custom-built rigs or brands other than DJI and 3D Robotics can still make use of Airmap, if they choose. The software has a mobile-friendly web interface that tells the user
what locations in their area of operation are off-limits.
For many involved in the expensive hobby, Airmap can help mitigate the risk of losing their property to overzealous security forces or otherwise unpredictable elements. Events such as California firefighters complaining of interfering drones could be a thing of the past if Airmap and technologies like it become commonly used by drone enthusiasts.
While homebrew drone operators will always have the final decision as to whether or not they should use Airmap or something like it, technologies like this have a way of making the government think about regulation. For if the operator has the ability to know he is not supposed to be operating in a certain location but is doing so anyway, perhaps there’s an element of criminality afoot (goes the thinking of the regulator).
For their part, commercial drone manufacturers aren’t willing to risk it. By default, several models of DJI’s geofencing program, dubbed GEO or Geospatial Environment Online, which utilizes Airmap’s API, will prevent operators from flying into no-fly-zones. In many locations, users will still have the ability to override the block, but one of the places expressly forbidden is Washington, DC.
One would presume that military bases might also be on such a list. Further, the no-fly-zone list includes places that one might not ordinarily think of, such as prisons and hospitals. The override will require the user to enter sensitive information about themselves, such as a credit card number, in order to increase accountability in the event of incident.
3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson is on record as saying how important it is to end the “mass jackassery” of drone operators, referring to the reckless flights that some have engaged in. In September, Anderson said:
If we don’t do something about it, no one’s been killed yet, but someone’s going to do something really stupid.
Anderson’s company believes that the ease of drone use which has come over time, with lots of technological innovation along the way, has helped to this end. He told Robotics Trends “we want to make flying as safe as it is easy.”
The move by the companies to implement Airmap technology is no coincidence, in that the Federal Government via Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration are currently looking into successfully mandating drone registration.
Like all new technologies, consumer drones are subject to scrutiny not experienced by more traditional hobbies, and to mitigate the inevitable regulations, companies within the industry must act responsibly to appease regulators ahead of time.
Images from Shutterstock and Wikimedia.