AirMap Digital Map Enables Safe, Legal Drone Flying

May 1, 2015  - By 0 Comments

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AirMap — a free, comprehensive digital map — allows unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators to visualize the airspace around them, including areas where they may not be permitted to fly.

AirMap removes barriers to compliance of complex airspace rules by providing the low altitude airspace information that unmanned aircraft operators need. AirMap was cofounded by aviation expert and entrepreneur Ben Marcus and Gregory McNeal, a legal scholar on drones, public policy and air rights.

AirMap integrates multiple sources of reliable data and gives UAS operators an easy-to-use, yet detailed, solution providing a single view of the restricted areas around an area of operations, its makers said. The beta version of the site is now live in the U.S. and will launch soon internationally, enabling UAS operators to immediately start benefiting from the free service. AirMap also features a feedback function that will allow beta testers to request additional features.

AirMap is a fully digital map that shows only the airspace rules that impact UAS operators. By focusing on airspace information from ground level up to 500 feet, AirMap strips away the clutter of higher altitude airspace labels found on charts that were created for manned aviation, its makers said.

When using AirMap, an operator can customize their display based on the type of operation they are involved in. Operators can select layers depicting the following:

  • Recreational use, which will display the airspace areas around airports which are limited by community-based guidelines;
  • “Blanket COA” rules applicable to holders of FAA Section 333 exemptions for commercial UAS operations; and
  • Controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) at 500 feet and below, allowing UAS operators to voluntarily comply with the airspace rules proposed in the FAA’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

“As UAS use continues to expand, the airspace in which operators are flying is also growing more complex. With this in mind, we’ve launched AirMap, which will serve as a resource for drone operators to immediately fly safely and in compliance with legal requirements. We want to make safe flying easy,” Marcus said.

Marcus and McNeal teamed to launch AirMap after they realized that operators needed a tool that would let them understand the complexities of restricted airspace for unmanned aircraft operations. Marcus, who co-founded aircraft brokerage firm jetAVIVA, will lead development and business growth functions. McNeal will apply his expertise and research in local regulatory environments to help AirMap reach and educate users throughout the country. In addition to his role with AirMap, McNeal is an associate professor of law and public policy at Pepperdine University and a Forbes contributor.

“As a drone operator I found it hard to know what the airspace rules were in the places where I wanted to fly. There were no accurate visuals or reliable electronic tools that could tell me and other operators where we can and cannot fly. AirMap solves this problem and helps to educate operators about this complex regulatory environment,” said McNeal. “The demand for AirMap is clear, as it is the most thorough resource for drone operators to ensure safe, legal and hassle-free flight.”

AirMap’s advisory board includes Steve Crocker, chairman of the ICANN; Stuart Banner, UCLA law professor and author of Who Owns the Sky?; Tom McInerney, former scientist at Apple; and Mike Mothner, founder and CEO of WPromote.

In February 2015, AirMap launched its first service, NoFlyZone.org, which accepts registrations from property owners who prefer UAS not overfly their land. These parcels are displayed in AirMap to help operators avoid sensitive areas, and minimize the hassles associated with disputes about where unmanned aircraft should be operating. AirMap also displays hospitals, schools and helipads and will be adding other sensitive sites in the future.

Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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