AirMap keeps driving drone economy with Hangar Technology acquisition
The worldwide non-military drone market is set to grow rapidly, from an estimated $4.9bn this year to more than $14.3bn in a decade’s time. However, the release of thousands of hobby, commercial and law-enforcement (to name a few applications) UAVs into the global airspace hasn’t been met with a complete absence of anxiety.
On Sunday 2 September, Dubai International Airport was forced to close (again) due to suspected drone activity. Drones were the preferred tool of the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, which planned to use them to disrupt air traffic at Heathrow in the middle of this month, prompting the UK police to make preemptive arrests. All over the world, as the number of drones grows, so do the number of areas designated as no-fly zones. Implications of possible privacy invasion, collision (intentional or otherwise) and disruption to services are putting pressure on commercial and private drone operators to comply with regulations that are approaching the stringency of those applied to conventional manned aircraft.
The solution may lie in technology similar to that used by conventional pilots, and one Santa Monica, California-based company is positioning itself as its industry-leading provider.
Founded in 2014, the company operates a worldwide airspace services platform for unmanned aircraft. Claiming to be used by 80% of the mon-military drone market, AirMap provides realtime visibility into drone airspace restrictions, enabling compliant drone operations at scale through automation, inserting digital technologies into traditional traffic management systems so that drone operators can integrate their operations safely and efficiently into low-altitude airspace.
AirMap has a rapidly expanding network of global partners, which includes DJI (the world’s biggest commercial drone manufacturer), Aeryon Labs, Intel, Sensefly, Rakuten, and more.
This week, AirMap continued to expand its capabilities and network of partners and subsidiaries with the acquisition of Hangar Technologies, a Texas-based drone workflow automation platform for enterprises.
Using the world's most sophisticated autonomous flight and mission execution engine, Hangar software precision-scans every inch of an asset. The Hangar platform then automatically ingests, processes, and analyzes drone data to create an accurate digital reconstruction and produce detailed component analysis.
AirMap will extend Hangar's best-in-class workflow automation, high-precision flight planning and image processing capabilities to its international ecosystem of developers and enterprises, who can expect enhancements to AirMap's platform of APIs and SDKs in the coming months.
"Hangar first joined the AirMap community as a developer of breakthrough automation technologies for enterprises," said Ben Marcus, AirMap Chairman and co-founder. "We're excited to bring this engineering talent in-house to make this technology available to our entire developer community."
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”