Airspace Link, Inc., a Detroit-based provider of drone-flight authorization and management solutions, has partnered with the city of Ontario to map the safest and most efficient routes for drones to take when picking up and delivering items, or when […]
As retailers look increasingly to futuristic drone delivery, Ontario has partnered with a Detroit company to map routes for unmanned aircraft systems to use when picking up and delivering merchandise in the city.
The aerial highways are being created in anticipation of Amazon, UPS and others using such routes as airborne deliveries become more routine. Airspace Link Inc. is creating what it calls “the safest and most efficient routes” through its AirHub mapping platform.
The yearly service will cost the city $40,000.
“There are lots of factors that have to be taken into consideration,” said Gianluca Pesce, the company’s marketing coordinator. “We look at a variety of ‘static’ elements, including the number of people and homes the drones will be flying over, as well as how many buildings and businesses there are.”
The idea, he said, is to map efficient routes above sparsely populated areas in the event a drone fails and falls to the ground. Federal regulations limit commercial and private drone use to a maximum elevation of 400 feet, Pesce said, and that must be substantially reduced near airports.
“Cities and counties can import lots of other static things into the system as well,” he said. “That could include police stations, fire stations, courthouses and jails — places cities wouldn’t want drones flying over.”
Under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, commercial drones must weigh less than 55 pounds and can operate only by “line-of-sight,” which means the drone operator must be able to physically see the drone at all times. Those rules are subject to waivers, the federal agency said.
Jimmy Chang, Ontario’s director of broadband operations, said the city has identified the 13-square-mile Ontario Ranch area south of the 60 freeway as a prime area for drone operations. The redeveloped property — once home to dairies and farms — currently has 3,500 homes.
Portions of the area are no-fly zones based on population, and that restriction can be extended when specific areas put on special events throughout the year. But other parts are ripe for drone delivery service, Chang said.
He added that Ontario is home to more than 100 million square feet of industrial manufacturing and distribution space that includes Nike and QVC operations.
“We’re a gateway to the logistics sector here in Southern California,” Chang said. “We have many distribution centers in Ontario, and we have the airport as well. I see this as leading to new opportunities. And with COVID-19 going on … I think we’ll see even more.”
AirHub’s aerial mapping will give commercial and recreational pilots a clear understanding of where drones are authorized to fly, based on local advisories from the city, Chang said.
“Our entire community will be safer as a result,” he said.
The city and Ontario International Airport are collaborating with the FAA to open up more airspace to support drone flights through the use of Airspace Link’s technology.
“We look forward to continuing to work closely with the City, Airspace Link and our airport partners to create the safest possible environment for our residents and neighbors,” Atif Elkadi, ONT’s deputy CEO said in a statement. “This collaborative effort also will create new economic opportunities for our region, particularly with regard to package deliveries.”
The growth of recreational flight and commercial drone traffic is increasing rapidly. MarketsAndMarkets.com predicts the drone package delivery market will hit $2.1 billion in 2023 and grow to $27.4 billion by 2030.