Air Traffic Control Systems for Drones: Interesting Problems for Entrepreneurs #1

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Last year I wrote a post called 5 Real Problems That I Really Think Need Solving which was very popular.

One of our contributors Australian Entrepreneur and Inventor Ian Maxwell was on leave recently and started an Invention a day post while travelling. His posts have inspired me to update my Interesting Problems that I believe are great entrepreneurial opportunities.

So today I kick off a fortnight of Interesting Problems.

Air Traffic Control Systems For Drones.

The Problem:

No Government Air worthiness agency in their right mind is going to allow anyone to blindly fly their drone ferrying 6 packs and pizza around cities without some form of Air Traffic Control, collision detection and avoidance and either geo and/or height fencing (nor should they).

There are no existing systems that will offer this capability given the change in operation that will occur when using Drones in a large numbers in a city.

Existing Air Traffic Control (ATC) have big towers, big airfields, lots of people and extremely expensive and heavy equipment in both the aircraft and the ground stations.

It seems unlikely this infrastructure will be able to be replicated or utilised for Drones.

Existing ATC mode of operation assumes manned flight and assumes the pilots are going to co-operate with the tower and each other.

In order to have commercial drone flight in any meaningful way you need to be able to prevent them from killing people and each other and to co-ordinate their flights to avoid collision with each other, buildings, cars, people and (the elephant in the room) real aircraft.

Also for commercial drones to be used for deliveries, presumably they will need to travel a longer distance than the currently allowed “Line of Sight” distance.

They will also need to be largely autonomous otherwise they will need a full-time operator for each drone which would probably prevent their adoption on a large-scale due to cost.

Until these issues are solved in a meaningful way it seems unlikely FCC or other air worthiness authorities are going to allow high volume drone usage.

Likely Requirements:

  • Low cost – $100 per unit or less
  • Low Weight
  • Low Power Requirements
  • Sensing Range 1km
  • LIDAR/Radar/Ultrasonics
  • Air to Ground Avoidance
  • Air to Air avoidance
  • Obstacle Avoidance
  • Navigation
  • Flight Planning
  • Live Video back to operator
  • Geo & Altitude Fencing
  • Failsafe automatic Landing or return to base

Please discuss with me on Twitter @Mikenicholls88

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