While Fargo-based Aerobotic CEO Shawn Muehler was speaking at 1 Million Cups Wednesday morning about drone safety, the Associated Press was publishing an article about the exact same thing.
The article, which has now been re-published by Fox News, Yahoo, and a multitude of other news outlets, only confirms the claims of Muehler and his team that there is a stark need for drones to be equipped with safety software. In the past two years, the article states, sightings of drones nearly hitting airplanes, helicopters, or breaching airport perimeters has gone from irregular to near-daily – sometimes 2-3 times a day.
Rory Kay, a training captain at a major airline and a former Air Line Pilots Association safety committee chairman, is quoted in the article saying:
“It should not be a matter of luck that keeps an airplane and a drone apart.”
Indeed it should not, is the response of the seven guys currently at work in their downtown Fargo office. What they are doing, this very moment, is polishing up a first-of-its-kind application that could significantly decrease these hazardous near-collisions with drones.
If you were at 1 Million Cups, you heard all about it- it’s called Botlink, and it’s a game-changer.
A full description of Botlink is on the team’s slick new website, but in a nutshell it’s a cloud-connected platform that lets you see where the heck your drone is flying.
With over 1 million small drones sold worldwide the past few years, the drone-enthusiast market needs direction and they need it now. Yes, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has regulations in place: drone owners are required to own a certificate of authorization, fly below 400 feet in altitude, remain in sight of the operator, and stay 5 miles away from the airport. But with near-daily reports of hazardous drone flying it’s clear they are struggling to hold on to the reigns.
Right now, Muehler claims his Fargo-based company has one of the best solutions available. Get those drone-users an application like Botlink, he says, and they’ll be able to see where they are flying using FAA data. They’ll see their position, direction of travel, altitude, and airspeed at all times via GPS. They’ll be alerted when entering private airspace.
And besides the capability of safety features, this app is just plain cool. Imagine being able to control your drone from your phone, drawing flight patterns and giving commands off a pocket-size device as opposed to the bulky controllers that are used now. Imagine when you see another drone approaching on the Botlink map, being able to pop up a chat bubble and talk with the other drone pilot – just like Xbox live, Muehler explained.
Even cooler, is that these features are made possible through data plans that Aerobotic has acquired through a partnership with Verizon Wireless; one that allows them to purchase data plans in bulk for low prices. Because of this, Aerobotic is offering the first drone data plan in the world.
When Muehler announced that fact at 1 Million Cups, the room erupted with applause. The enthusiasm in the air was almost tangible. Muehler and his team were swamped for an hour after the presentation, handing out business cards and answering questions. Positive feedback was all over Twitter:
In a few weeks, Android users will be able to start using Botlink.
Remember that name, Fargo. If the visions of Muehler and his team are realized, this application could be the catalyst that makes North Dakota the capital of the future $100 billion dollar drone industry.
Read more about Aerobotic here. Visit their website here.
All photos taken by Marisa Jackels.