Based in the United Kingdom, Altitude Angel is a startup dedicated to solving one of the most complex problems facing the aviation industry: how to safely integrate drones into our skies. With the use of drones set to rise dramatically over the coming years, Altitude Angel envisions a future where drones fill the skies conducting all manner of tasks, from delivery and survey, to mapping, surveillance and even personal transport.
Its flagship system, GuardianUTM, is a powerful cloud platform capable of performing ‘Unmanned Systems Traffic Management’, or UTM for short. Think “air traffic control”, but instead of humans talking to humans, its machines talking to machines. “It’s built for a time when tens of millions of drones are conducting tens of millions of flights autonomously,” says Richard Parker, Founder and CEO.
To deliver its service, GuardianUTM has to ingest massive amounts of data about the physical world (such as maps and environmental and weather conditions), the regulations that govern drone flights in a particular location, even the position of manned aircraft and of course, drone pilots (and their drones) as well.
“Today, GuardianUTM is more focused on talking all that rich, real-time and relevant data we aggregate, and delivering that directly to drone pilots and the drone control apps, to help them make better operating decisions. It also lets them report their drone flights to others, and through our UTM Exchange platform, can even share that data with other drone companies,” says Parker, “it’s about creating a unified airspace”.
Although there are other drone flight planning apps currently available, Altitude Angel’s apps are truly in a class of their own. It’s white-label app, Guardian, is the only app on the market that supports both recreational and professional operators while being connected to a real-time data processing platform which tracks manned aviation and sits on the same backbone as existing aviation companies. “It means our users get the most comprehensive and relevant operation data available”.
Altitude Angel sees the potential in drones to transform lives and revolutionize businesses, and exists to address one key problem: drones – although incredibly powerful machines – are often flying ‘blind’. “They don’t carry up-to-date aviation maps, they can’t ‘see’ each other, they often don’t know anything about their operator or their qualifications, and they can’t detect other airspace users, such as manned aircraft”, continues Parker.
So, what makes GuardianUTM tick? According to Parker, the platform boasts a huge database of ground and aerial hazards from which it creates geo-fences, environmental data for weather alerts, and a compliance API which helps to make sense of all the data.
This allows drone manufacturers, drone users, and other aviation community stakeholders to use a central service that can optionally share their operations data communally, contributing to better airspace awareness.
In short, it helps drone operators make better safety decisions by giving them the best data. And, in the future, Altitude Angel’s systems will act like the conductor in a large aerial symphony: ensuring the autonomous drones set to fill our skies in the years to come can do so without conflicting with one another.
Approaching its second birthday, the company has earned a worldwide reputation synonymous with quality and innovation, and regularly works with regulators globally and notably in the EU to determine the best and safest way to unlock the drone economy. The company also recently announced a project with the aviation navigation giant NATS (formerly National Air Traffic Services), the leading air navigation service provider in the United Kingdom.
A member of the Microsoft Accelerator program and having released its mobile apps only late last year, Altitude Angel has tens of thousands of registered drone pilots operating around the world, with the app it created from its flagship partner, NATS, receiving over 10,000 drone pilots in just 10 weeks.
“We feel proud to be part of the Microsoft Accelerator Program,” Parker continues, “and it has given us the opportunity to scale rapidly, really making use of some cutting-edge technology. With Azure, we significantly reduced the amount of time needed to build our autonomous air traffic control simulations, which has had a direct impact on our product development”.
Altitude Angel uses a variety of Azure features and several open-source solutions to its services. In fact, the company’s infrastructure (which is deployed primarily in multiple Azure but is also multi-cloud), is based on a mixture of Linux and Windows platforms, different data stores and boasts dedicated interconnects with ‘traditional’ aviation networks, forming the backbone of today’s air navigation services.
The company uses Visual Studio’s Application Insights to log, monitor, and improve their products using rich metrics, while deploying SQL Database to adaptively tune performance to identified trends. The application also utilizes several other Azure features including: Hockey App (for usage stats and crash reporting), DocumentDB, Azure Websites and for its mobile apps, Xamarin Forms.
“Azure is an excellent platform,” concludes Parker, “and enables us to truly reach new heights. We’ve been able to deliver our API customers 100% uptime and have confidence that Azure was the right solution for us.”
Altitude Angel’s apps are available on iOS and Android and its developer platform is open to everyone. Check out their two-minute intro to GuardianUTM to learn more about the solutions they’re building.
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About BizSpark: Microsoft BizSpark is a global program that helps startups succeed by giving free access to Microsoft Azure cloud services, software and support. BizSpark members receive up to $750 per month of free Microsoft Azure cloud services for 3 years: that’s $150 per month each for up to 5 developers. Azure works with Linux and open-source technologies such as Linux, Ruby, Python, Java and PHP. BizSpark is available to startups that are privately held, less than 5-years-old and earn less than $1M in annual revenue.