Bridging the Opportunity Divide

The Software That Could Enable Drones to Go Mainstream

December 8, 2014
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The Software That Could Enable Drones to Go Mainstream
Airware's autopilot device (red box) can be installed in commercial drones to collect data from various components. Screenshot courtesy Airware
Flying objects could help improve the growing of crops.

The skies may soon be filled with more than birds, insects and planes.

Airware, a startup gathering rapid momentum, has invented what MIT News calls, “the DOS of drones.” In other words, the company has created a reliable base hardware on which other businesses can customize and expand — giving them the ability to customize drone sensors, cameras and communication devices, for example, taking drones out of the military and into everyday society.

The Linux-based autopilot device c an be as universal to drones as Intel and Microsoft’s DOS were to the progression of computers.

CEO and founder Jonathan Downey says to ABC, “I think nobody understood all of the different apps that would be on your phone before there was a platform like Android or IOS.”

Airware’s platform handles the basic software and hardware, as well as the cloud services that host and transmit the data the drones collect. Before the advent of this new invention, applying different uses to drones took a lot of work and time, but this software eliminates the process.

“In 2011, we identified a significant gap in the market,” he said. “Military autopilots were too inflexible and expensive and hobbyist projects weren’t safe or reliable enough for commercial use.”

Since capitalizing on this ‘gap in the market,’ Airware has gathered significant funding ($25 million in one instance on top of the $40 million already invested) from a variety of investors, including G.E., who hope to use the drones for uses such as the collection of data on defunct wind turbines or agriculture crop management.

This innovation also bears good news to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), who are set to vote on commercial drone usage in 2015. Downey thinks having an umbrella platform for all commercial drones will gather favor in the decision.

“Rather than see a world where there’s 500 drones flying overhead, and every drone has different software and electronics, it’s good for the FAA if all of them had reliable and common hardware and software,” he says.

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