Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of talking to Matthew Benson, one of the co-founders of Windhover Labs. The Texas-based startup was founded a few years ago by NASA software engineers and participated in the Phase II NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Recently Windhover made their first successful drone test flight and today they are introducing their open-source software built on the backbone of NASA’s core Flight System (cFS) framework. The opensource software, built to meet the FAA standards, enables operators to control, command an unmanned aerial vehicle and provides a way of communicating with the drone. Windhover aims to make safe Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) drone operations a reality by offering a software solution for drone manufacturers.

WINDHOVER LABS UNVEILS OPEN DRONE SOFTWARE ECOSYSTEM

LEAGUE CITY, TX, May 9, 2018—Windhover Labs, an emerging leader in open and reliable drone software, announces the successful test flight of its integrated flight software stack and ground control software. This milestone solidifies a groundbreaking technical approach and also marks the general availability of its software ecosystem to OEMs, avionics manufacturers, and commercial customers.

The successful test flight marked a significant milestone of Windhover’s Phase II NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. SBIR programs fund the research, development, and demonstration of innovative technologies that have significant potential for successful commercialization. As an open ecosystem, Windhover’s aftermarket extensibility options can create unlimited applications similar to the way iOS® and Android® users benefit from millions of independently designed and produced productivity tools.

Built on the backbone of NASA’s core Flight System (cFS) framework and to the standards commensurate with FAA certification, Windhover’s command, control, communication, and information systems are essential for advancing the drone market into safe and reliable Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) operations.

“Windhover Labs is building upon the safety and reliability of NASA’s core Flight System for the drone universe,” said Michael Lowry of the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames. “NASA’s cFS is a proven and expandable software foundation for space missions, which can also provide an expandable software solution for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.”

Windhover’s software ecosystem will help unleash the potential of commercial applications for autonomous Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS). The ecosystem is designed for three main purposes: 1) to be integrated into drone hardware, 2) used for limitless commercial applications such as package delivery, precision agriculture, energy infrastructure inspection, and 3) a platform enabling drone service providers to build their own applications quickly and easily.

“Our team has over 30 years developing human-rated space flight software for NASA, NASA subcontractors, and commercial space,” said Mathew Benson, Co-Founder and Chief Engineer at Windhover Labs. “We decided to apply our experience to the emerging commercial drone market and built our flight stack on proven, safety-critical space flight software.”

Press release: Windhover Labs introduces an open software system for drones

How It Works

Windhover’s software is designed for flying drones beyond line-of-sight, a similar scenario to operating spacecraft. Leveraging space flight software concepts of autonomy and safety as a foundation is key to the safe expansion and integration of small UAS into low-altitude airspace. Further, its ground software is built on standard IT solutions including HTML and JavaScript, making extensibility and workforce adoptions as easy as finding a good web developer.

Additionally, the Windhover framework and autopilot are based on open source solutions making adoption by avionics industry a low-cost option without sacrificing safety and reliability.

The Team

The Windhover Labs team has over 30 years of experience in human spaceflight software development, integration and test. In less than one year, the team built the platform from the ground up following a standards-based development process, culminating in a successful flying vehicle. Windhover Labs is currently working with NASA to promote the safe incorporation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into low-altitude airspace. Recognized experts in the integration of NASA’s open framework, Windhover Labs is able to quickly integrate new platforms and features.

About Windhover Labs

Windhover Labs is a leading developer of open, reliable, high-performance drone software that is easy to implement, test, deploy, and operate. Its complete ecosystem of flight and ground software, along with high-quality processes, achieve the reliability required for autonomous operations of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in low-altitude airspace. The open platform enables third-party developers to easily integrate their ideas onto flying platforms. Windhover Labs was founded in 2015 and was initially funded through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program. For more information, visit www.windhoverlabs.com.

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