A company called SkyGrid has released a new app for drone operators that it says will “automate every phase of flight in one unified solution.” If you’ve never heard of SkyGrid, you should know it has some brains and money behind it. It’s part of SparkCognition, which has partnered with Boeing and is focused on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. So that, already, has our attention.

This popped across our radar in a news release. Once we looked up SparkCognition, we knew this would probably be interesting. And it looks like it will be. According to the release, “SkyGrid Flight Control™ simplifies mission planning and execution, allowing drone operators to autonomously surveil a defined area and detect objects in real-time. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI) computer vision, the solution enables more efficient search and rescue missions, disaster response, perimeter surveillance, site inspections, and more.”

It’s the AI part of this statement that really pulls us in. There are many, many drone applications that could use an automated solution.

iPad App

SkyGrid Flight Control does not come in versions for iPhone or Android. Instead, it’s available for free but in the iPad App Store:

What the iPad App Store is showing…

Feature laden

Of course, any news release about a new product is going to make it sound good. But this app does indeed sound like it has some great things going for it. Example:

Traditionally, drone operators have used several different tools to check airspace, get LAANC, plan and execute flights, and gather insights, but it’s a manual, cumbersome process. Recognizing this challenge, SkyGrid has minimized the burden on drone operators by creating one solution that automates airspace, flights, and insights. As the only drone solution built on AI and blockchain technologies, we give operators and enterprises the assurances they need to execute safe, compliant missions.

Amir Husain, CEO and founder of SkyGrid

The fine print

That’s great for the big picture. At a more granular level, SkyGrid Flight Control allows the pilot to automate multiple steps of any given mission. Drone operators will be able to automate mission planning, flight execution, airspace authorization, and even object detection in a single, end-to-end process. The following functions, says the release, are all available for free within the app:

Airspace Intelligence: You’ll get a complete map of the airspace in your mission area, along with any NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen), temporary flight restrictions, and other notifications.

Some iPad screenshots from the App store

Ground intelligence: Elevation, obstacles, population density, and more.

Advanced weather data: Very detailed hyper-local conditions encompassing the mission area, including precipitation, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, temperature, and more.

Real-time airspace authorization: Need to fly in controlled airspace below 400′? The app includes integration with the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) 4.0.

Automated mission planning: According to the release, the app “automatically generates area exploration, waypoint, and multi-objective missions based on custom flight parameters, such as desired speed, altitude, and location.”

Autonomous flight execution: You got it. Sends your drone off for its mission and brings it back.

AI object recognition: Automatically detects objects in real-time, through the use of AI-enhanced computer vision. Is that a car? A house? A road? Your drone will be able to tell, with the help of the app.

Wait, there’s more

And there is. The app also contains some even more advanced features. Those features have been monetized, but it’s clear there will be demand for some of these capabilities, including:

  • AI-based mission planning and rerouting
  • Custom object detection and counting (How many cars are around?)
  • Multi-drone missions
  • Geofencing

Enabling software

The release states SkyGrid will really pave the way for existing drones to take on more complex tasks — and with greater automation and ease:

SkyGrid Flight Control is an important stepping-stone to enable more complex commercial drone operations and advanced air mobility in urban, regional, and global markets. SkyGrid is solving complex problems in unmanned aviation with a system that will safely integrate the future volume of drones, passenger air vehicles, and other autonomous aircraft in the global airspace.

Steve Nordlund, SkyGrid Executive Board Advisor, VP/GM Being NeXt

Made for the USA?

We tried to download this app from the iPad App Store. This is what we got:

Boo-hoo…

We’re in Toronto. And the app appears to not be available in Canada. We’ve dropped a note to SkyGrid, asking about availability. We’ll update when we know, but given the LAANC authorization feature, we’re guessing this is tied into US airspace with integration to the FAA. In other words, likely US-only for now. But we’ve gotta say, this looks really intriguing.

Update

As we suspected, the app is currently US-only. SkyGrid says, however, it will be expanding to other markets in the very near future. Stay tuned!

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