It’s an honor to introduce myself for the first time as AirMap’s Chief Technology Officer.
In more than two decades as an engineer and technology executive, I’ve had the privilege of delivering experiences on a range of platforms, from mobile phones and consumer electronics, to some of the world’s first driverless cars. From the first time I tinkered with electronic parts salvaged from the junkyard as a teenager, I’ve been inspired by technology’s potential to change our world – and the intellectual challenge of figuring out exactly how to do it.
Drones, like smartphones before them, have the power to transform our world in new and unprecedented ways.
When I look at the drone ecosystem, I see an open, democratic development environment, and an unparalleled opportunity to innovate and ideate. Technology – especially drone technology – is more affordable and more accessible than ever before.
Thanks to the openness of the platform, a massive community of innovators is building a diverse range of drone hardware, software, and services from the ground up. And whether you are building a drone, designing a flight app, experimenting with a new drone business model, or pursuing any one of the countless other ways entrepreneurs take part in the drone economy, AirMap is designed to help fellow innovators access mapping and data exchange capabilities that can enable their creativity and accelerate their success.
As the former CTO of HERE, I’ve seen how a platform for mapping and data exchange jumpstarted another nascent industry: autonomous vehicles. HERE’s road-mapping technology revolutionized how cars receive and communicate information and sense and interpret the world around them. But unlike autonomous vehicles, drone technology has been remarkably open-source from the very beginning, with a low price of entry that makes the technology accessible to all. And thus drones are free to proliferate more widely than almost any other device we’ve seen.
For an engineer like me, this is tremendously exciting. In the years to come, millions of drones will fly billions of flights, and they’ll navigate in three dimensions. In order to do so safely, reliably, and accurately, drones will need to understand minute details about current conditions and receive real-time information about potential obstacles they may encounter in shared airspace. They’ll need to be able take into account nearby air traffic, temporary flight restrictions, weather, airspace regulations, and more – a complex universe of data about the world around them.
Ultimately, drones will need a new kind of map, a map for “things” and by “things.” A map that is a dynamic, digital abstraction of reality and different for every flight, adapting with the context of each operation. A map designed for devices that need to make sense of the flights around them, as well as humans. A map that describes a reality that is “seen” through the lens of technological capabilities like computer vision and LiDAR, the eyes of the “thing,” not the eyes of an operator.
Today, AirMap’s airspace management technology allows millions of drones to fly safely, securely, and efficiently in all corners of the world, laying the groundwork for the development of autonomous drones. I’m excited to be part of this present – and to help shape a tomorrow in which autonomous drones are fully realized citizens of the AirMap platform, alongside operators, manufacturers, regulators, and airspace stakeholders.