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Drone management: The next frontier

Colin Neagle | Dec. 16, 2014
Once commercial drones start filling the skies, how will they be managed?

amazon prime air drone
Credit: Amazon.com

About a year ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made a bold publicity move he sat down for a 60 Minutes interview and showed off the company's planned use of drones for same-day delivery to its customers.

Those familiar with the reluctance surrounding drones in the U.S. knew that Bezos was being overly optimistic. Among many other obstacles to commercial drone use in the country, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been slow to permit widespread commercial use of drones in U.S. airspace. Bezos was getting the public excited for a technology despite the uncertainty over when and how exactly his company will be able to launch it.

If Bezos and every other organization that is eager to launch commercial drones have their way, the U.S. could see an entirely new form of air traffic. How this network of drones is managed carries a lot of implications, from the millions of dollars in costs for the companies that own them to the safety of the people who live on the ground below them.

"Right now when I look at the environment, it seems that the reason we don't have things in place is exactly that network level," Roie Ganzarski, CEO of resource optimization software company BoldIQ, says. "So the drone capability exists, including if they get lost or lose control with the operator they fly back home, they identify people around them, they're very technologically capable. The thing that is missing right now, I believe, from an FAA level, is to say 'how do I know that there won't be 10,000 of those flying around, and let alone hitting each other, hitting passenger planes?'"

To solve this problem, many companies are adapting software designed to optimize resources and the supply chain in other industries for unmanned aerial vehicles. BoldIQ's software was originally created for a now-defunct air taxi service and creates automatic plans based on the resources at hand, the user's immediate needs, and the regulations to which it needs to adhere. Extending it to drones only seems natural.

Ganzarski points to transportation services like Uber, Lyft, and taxi services as examples of what could happen if drones are mismanaged.

"The only way for me to promise that you'll have a car within five minutes right now is to load the streets with cars," Ganzarski says. "That's very inefficient."

Just like the taxi industry, flooding the skies with an excess of drones is not only inefficient, but it's a safety risk. This puts higher value on the tools and techniques that will allow companies to do more with fewer drones.

 

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