One of PlanetM Landing Zone’s newest members, Airspace Link, landed a major and rare milestone with the Federal Aviation Administration, clearing the way for a “highway in the sky” for commercial and recreational drones.
Airspace Link, a Detroit-based drone and air logistics company, recently received federal approval to become an FAA supplier, providing the country with the first unified drone management software system. Specifically, the startup has been designated a supplier of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability or LAANC.
The company, which launched earlier this year, offers drone pilots a platform to map the safest, most efficient routes for air travel. Pilots not only have to contend with FAA regulations on where, when and how drones may operate in controlled and uncontrolled spaces, but also a host of regulations at the state and local levels. Drone pilots must have their flights approved by the FAA.
Airspace Link’s Airhub provides up-to-date information, integrating federal, state and local regulations to help drone pilots determine where they can fly and what they’re flying over. Commercial drone flyers will need to use the platform to determine the safest, most efficient route for package deliveries, pipeline inspection, insurance inspections, and other uses. Recreational drone flyers will have to use the database if they’re flying near airports.
“We’re building infrastructure to manage drones, those flying 400 feet or below and weighing 55 pounds or less,” says Michael Healander, president and CEO of the company. “We’re building highways in the sky or toll roads for commercial and recreational drones. We’re building out the virtual roads so they can drive on them.”
Airspace Link also recently received a $55,000 mobility grant from PlanetM and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to test mobility options in several southeast Michigan communities. The communities will be testing AirHub for government portal to define areas of risk, special ordinance and event restrictions within the community. Drone pilots will plan and submit operations to the FAA through Airspace Link, enabling faster approvals and stronger mitigation plans for complex flights.
Airspace Link’s recent successes have come just several months after becoming a member of PlanetM Landing Zone, a collaboration between the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Michigan Economic Development Corp to increase interaction between the traditional automotive industry and global mobility technology startups. The company joined in May and has been working in office space in the WeWork Merchant Row’s location on Woodward Avenue.
“It’s all been a plus,” Healander said. “The Landing Zone has allowed us to find a home base and build around that community in downtown Detroit. We’ve been able to make great connections, and the networking we’ve been able to do has been instrumental.”
The company has already grown from one to five employees in Detroit and is looking to hire three more workers. Healander envisions staffing as many as 22 people by this time next year, as the company grows.
Devon O’Reilly, director of Entrepreneurship & PlanetM Landing Zone for the Detroit Regional Chamber, said Airspace Link’s achievement with the FAA is a first for a Landing Zone member and unique for a Detroit-based startup.
PlanetM is home to 55 members, which includes 40 startups and 15 corporate members. The startups includes an array of mobility-related technologies, generally focused on the CASE technologies (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electric). They include everything from autonomous and connected vehicle-focused startups to artificial intelligence and cyber security solutions. They include drone-related companies like Airspace Link.
“Michigan is a great place to start a drone company. We’re at the forefront of the industry,” he said, noting the potential for the industry’s growth in the state. “We’re hoping to bring economic development and drone companies to southeast Michigan.”