Drone Traffic, an aviation research and development start-up in Denver, Colorado, has won a NASA grant to create an airborne drone monitoring, reporting, and avoidance system for aircraft pilots.
Drone Traffic and its partner Mosaic ATM recently received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to begin the first phase of the project.
According to company officials, the FAA estimates that 2.4 million drones have been sold in the United States. While most drones operate safely, the FAA continues to document more than 100 unsafe drone operations a month, including airspace violations, near-collisions, and actual collisions.
Drone Traffic founder Rick Zelenka, a patent attorney, former NASA engineer and Boeing executive, as well as a longtime pilot, recognized the need for an airborne real-time drone avoidance system and patented his solution.
The product resembles popular car-driving apps that alert drivers to important traffic risk — think Waze for pilots.
The airborne drone avoidance system acquires drone information from a variety of sources, including airborne and ground-based radar, air traffic management databases, and pilot crowd-sourcing. The system enables pilots to report drone presence and transgressions, creating a pathway to a safer flight, according to company officials.
A graphical user interface provides current flight status, future trajectory information, and safety-focused drone warning information embedded within 2D and 3D mapping displays, company officials explained. The product can be stand-alone or a supplement to existing flight applications in a pilot’s electronic flight bag, officials add.