Alphabet’s Wing Division Advances Unmanned Air Traffic System | In depth

In recent years, various companies have been working to develop underlying air traffic technologies to support the expected rapid expansion of the commercial unmanned urban air mobility (UAM) industry.

These players include Google’s sister company Wing, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet, which is now drawing attention to the “InterUSS platform”, a wireless aircraft management and data transfer system. pilot she helped develop.

The technology is intended to manage the operation of all types of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including package delivery drones and passenger-carrying air taxis, says Reinaldo Negron, air traffic management manager unmanned at Wing.

The InterUSS platform enables data sharing between unmanned service providers, supporting “large-scale interoperable systems,” says Negron.

The air taxi concept has received significant attention in recent years as small companies and huge aerospace vendors have deployed UAM designs and demonstrators. Several companies have also tested drone parcel delivery.

“The InterUSS platform allows someone providing a service in one area to know who else they need to collaborate with,” explains Negron. “It helps you know who to talk to and when to talk to them, and also ensures that you have the data you need.”

The UAM industry needs such a system to enable a growth rate that could reach 200% per year, explains Negron.

Other InterUSS partners include Uber, which through its Uber Elevate division has developed an air taxi service, AirMap, a California-based digital airspace and automation company, and the Swiss air transport regulator. ‘civil Aviation.

The open source software organization Linux Foundation hosts the InterUSS platform.

Being “open source” means that the large unmanned aircraft community can modify and improve the InterUSS platform. This approach can ensure that air traffic management technology keeps pace with the expected rapid growth of the drone industry, says Negron.

The drone industry is “moving away from proprietary solutions and towards collaboration,” he adds.

Based in California, Wing began in 2012 as an innovation project within “X”, the division of Google that seeks to develop “moonshot” technologies. After proving the viability of its concept, Wing became a district affiliate of Alphabet in 2018.

The Google division has previously developed drone designs and built prototypes, and over the past six years has conducted tens of thousands of drone test flights in the United States and elsewhere.

These aircraft are designed to fly at altitudes up to 400 feet and at speeds up to 65 knots (120 km/h).

Wing initially set out to develop all-electric drones capable of delivering essentials like medicine and food, but turned to test projects involving deliveries of small, urgent packages. In 2014, the Wing team made their “first real-world deliveries” using unmanned aircraft in rural Queensland, Australia, carrying goods such as first aid kits, water and food.

Wing has also delivered drone products to projects in Christiansburg, Virginia and Helsinki, Finland, and supports regulators with unmanned traffic management projects in Australia, France, Switzerland, the UK United and United States.

“We’ve demonstrated that around the world,” says Negron.

Wing is one of three companies — the others being Amazon and the UPS division UPS Flight Forward — to receive Part 135 air carrier certification from the Federal Aviation Administration for drone operations, Negron notes.

But the Part 135 regulations were originally written for manned, not unmanned, aircraft, Negron notes.

For this reason, Wing and others are working with the FAA to develop drone-specific surveillance. Wing supported the FAA’s “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management” effort, which aims to develop a framework to enable unmanned aircraft operations.

Story updated September 26 to clarify that Wing is a subsidiary of Google parent Alphabet, and corrected to note that Amazon, not FedEx, has FAA Part 135 certification. The update also clarifies information related to operations of Wing and the InterUSS platform and adds details about them.

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