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Today, AirMap helps millions of drones navigate the skies safely and efficiently, accelerating the pace of innovation for the entire industry.

This is thanks in large part to a dedicated team of highly skilled engineers with unparalleled breadth and depth in best-in-class technology stacks and experience in aviation, security, mapping, data, and more.

In less than two years from AirMap’s founding, the AirCrew has grown to over forty people. This week, we get to know six of the software engineers making drones part of everyday life.

(left to right) Carlos Corral, Vinodhini Ravikumar, Zhen Tao, Meredith Underell, Adolfo Martinelli

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airmap utm head of product matt koskelaUTM, or unmanned traffic management, is one of the key enablers of the drone economy. But what is it? How does it work? And how is AirMap making it a reality?

We interviewed AirMap’s Vice President of Product, Matt Koskela, to find out.

Let’s start with the basics. What is UTM?

“UTM” refers to two things. First, UTM stands for “Unmanned Traffic Management” – how we’ll manage the integration of drones into low-altitude airspace.

We’re heading towards a future in which millions of drones fly billions of flights. These drones will need a complex universe of data to map and understand the environment around them – and tools to communicate and deconflict with others in low-altitude airspace. UTM is the infrastructure that will allow a drone to exchange all of this information with other drones, manned aircraft, airspace management services like AirMap, and other stakeholders like airport personnel and air traffic control.

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When the Wright brothers made the first manned flight on December 17, 1903, few could have imagined that air travel would soon be a routine part of our everyday lives. In the hundred years since then, air travel has become the very safest form of transportation available to us — safer than bus, train, rail, and the car you probably drive every day.

We take safe, reliable air travel completely for granted. In the U.S., approximately two million people board airplanes every day. We count on them to ferry us to important business meetings, take us to vacation destinations, and deliver us to our friends and family for holidays.

But how did flying machines — once science fiction — become the single safest way to travel?

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In June of last year, the FAA announced the final sUAS Rule for commercial drone operations in the United States. The new rule, Part 107, provides the first national, uniform regulations for commercial operation of unmanned aircraft systems under 55 pounds, pursuant to a set of operational and safety requirements and a licensed operator.

These operational and safety requirements include standards like 107.25(b) prohibiting operations from a moving vehicle or aircraft, or 107.39 prohibiting the operation of multiple unmanned aircraft by a single operator, or remote pilot-in-command. Commercial operators who want to fly outside of the requirements of the sUAS Rule must formally request a waiver and/or airspace authorization with the FAA.

As of January 3, 2017, the FAA has granted a total of 256 waivers to Part 107. More interesting, however, is that 250 of approved waivers are requesting authorization to operate drones outside of part 107.29, which prohibits the operation of a small unmanned aircraft system at night.

That’s over 97.5% of waiver requests for the same purpose: nighttime operations. But why?

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As predicted, drone sales soared for the second year in a row this holiday season.

The FAA estimates that U.S. drone sales doubled from 1.7 million in 2015 to 2.5 million in 2016. Moreover, it estimated that 1 million of drones sold this year would find themselves under a Christmas tree waiting to be unwrapped.

With an estimated 40% of all drone sales earmarked for holiday gift-giving, it’s no wonder that AirMap saw a dramatic hike in traffic to match the holiday rush. As expected, Black Friday and Christmas Day were all about drones.

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