Drones are on the verge of becoming everyday service vehicles that will shuttle small items and eventually large ones between warehouses, retailers, and consumers as well as monitor traffic and agricultural operations, deliver pizza, survey building sites, execute search and rescue, … the list of possible uses is huge.
All of these operations will be done at the local level initially but within a few years you can expect to see drones performing cross country flights for things like surveying and deliveries as a matter or routine. All we’re waiting for is the Federal Aviation Authority to get its act together and issues rules for the commercial use of drones (this is expected to occur in 2015).
Now, while remotely piloted drones will exist most future traffic will involve the pilotless drones (A.K.A. Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles or UAVs) and so if we imagine a sky filled with hundreds or even thousands of flying devices ranging from tiny, highly nimble machines to huge, slow UAVs we’re going to need services that manage, monitor, and program flight “highways” to ensure safety, speed, and efficiency.
A new startup, PixiePath, plans to become the flight control of the drone world by offering what the company calls a “Drone Fleet Orchestration Platform”. They address drone operators looking for drone fleet support, systems integrators and resellers that need complex UAV control workflow, and developers looking to build drone applications for commercial services.
So far, the company hasn’t released much information about exactly what its platform will provide but screenshots of the operator and developer interfaces give an insight into what looks like a sophisticated cloud-based service. According to their Web site, PixiePath already supports hardware offered by DJI and Pixhawk-based UAVs such as 3DRobotics.
So far only there’s only a handful of early start-ups offering cloud-based platforms similar to what PixiePath proposes such as Airware, Aria, and DroneDeploy but you can bet a lot more competition will emerge over the next few years as this market heats up.