Michigan’s Airspace Link Is Working to Keep Drone Fliers Out of Harm’s Way

Knowing where and when drone flying is permitted under the law is essential for keeping UAV fliers out of harm’s way – both physical and legal. But even when the rules are clear, the potential for mishaps is growing as more drones – recreational and commercial – begin to fill the skies.

One local Michigan start-up, working in tandem with public authorities and the FAA,  is trying to get ahead of the curve.  Airspace Link, founded in 2018, has created a handy app – “Air Hub” –  that all drone fliers can use without charge to plan their drone-flying routes based on existing restrictions and requirements.  Dubbed a “Google Maps for drones,” it’s easy to use – and completely free.

Rich Folley, Vice President of Marketing for Airspace Link, says drone fliers need a “digital infrastructure” to guarantee safe and efficient drone flights in crowded airspaces, especially over heavily populated areas.

“As we start to move more and more of our logistics into the sky, it’s important that we have essentially an air map that allows for safe travel for drones above our cities,” he told Michigan Public Radio last week.

Airspace Link is one of the few FAA-approved UAS Service Suppliers of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) approved to provide the B4UFLY service.  It’s part of an evolving effort to ensure that drone fliers have the most up-to-date and relevant realtime information on local drone flying rules as well as possible flight restrictions that may apply to specific airspaces on a temporary basis (e.g. TFRs).

Right now, Michigan appears to be the main testing ground for Airspace Link, with Detroit as the group’s home base.  Folly says the group’s partnerships with key organizations like the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Central are demonstrating the city’s commitment to managing drone airspaces safely.

So far, Airspace Link has received financial support from the Michigan Mobility Funding Platform to assist local drone companies to conduct last-mile cargo deliveries to reduce road emissions, traffic, vehicular accidents, and noise pollution – and to keep drone fliers and local residents safe.

In addition to government and nonprofit funding support, Airspace Link has raised $37M in total funding after completing a Series B round of $23M in funding beginning in June 2022.  David Li, principal at Avanta Ventures, which led the latest funding round, says: “Our investment in Airspace Link aligns with our deep focus on mobility innovation, safety, and risk management”.

Airspace Link’s CEO Michael Healander is a 15-year veteran of the drone industry, with extensive technology development experience.  The company recently moved its headquarters to downtown Detroit’s Mobility Hub and is in the process of establishing an operations center that includes 25 software development engineers and a small drone flight testing space.

The firm’s team includes data scientists, software engineers, aviation engineers, and industry experts from Google, Lyft, GE Aviation/AiRXOS, Geometri, GISinc, Ford Motor Company, Amazon Prime Air, and even the U.S. Air Force.

Ultimately, the company hopes to service drone fliers and their clients throughout the Great Lakes region and beyond.

The firm’s also planning to develop a rooftop vertiport to begin commercial drone flights on behalf of local companies within a 3-mile radius, pending additional funding and authorization from the FAA.

For its ground-breaking efforts, the group recently received the Up-and-Coming Company of the Year Award from the Michigan Venture Capital Association.

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