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Alphabet’s Wing launches OpenSky, a safety app for Australian drone operators

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Drone delivery service Project Wing (or just Wing as it’s now called) graduated from Google X last year to become an independent Alphabet business, and recently won governmental approval to operate in the suburbs outside the Australian capital, Canberra. There, its service delivers food, coffee, pet supplies and more to area residents. Related to these efforts, Wing this week launched a new app for drone flyers, OpenSky, to help them find safe places and times to fly their drones or drone fleets.

The app quietly launched on the iOS App Store and Google Play on Tuesday, and is targeted at both recreational drone owners as well as commercial drone operators.

As the Wing website explains, OpenSky wants to make it easier to find out when and where you can fly, whether you’re a “hobbyist who loves to fly” or a business that “uses unmanned aircraft to survey land or deliver goods.”

CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) says it’s retiring its own “Can I fly there?” app in favor of a remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) digital platform to which app developers can connect their own drone safety apps. OpenSky is the first third-party app to be approved that uses this new system.

In addition to its launch on the app stores, OpenSky is also available on the web.

The new app itself is straightforward to use. From a menu, you select what type of drone operator you are — either recreational, commercial (flying drones commercially less than 2kg) or ReOC (flying drones commercially with an operator certificate issued by CASA).

You can then enter addresses in the map’s search box to look up information about the no-fly zones and other restrictions that may be in place, as well as view the related CASA compliance maps for guidance. There are also features to help you identify flight hazards and a link to report unsafe drone operations directly to CASA.

In June, Wing published a blog post explaining that it would assist CASA with launching an ecosystem of apps to support safe drone flight. However, it hadn’t yet said what sort of apps it was launching or when they would arrive.

“Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) is taking an innovative approach to giving drone operators information to enable safe and predictable flight,” wrote Wing Project Manager Reinaldo Negron, in the post. “By allowing the drone industry to implement a diverse ecosystem of apps and services which drone flyers can use to obtain flight-related information, CASA is creating space for innovation while ensuring a strong baseline of public safety and regulatory oversight,” he said.

In addition to the drone safety apps, Wing said it also is developing tools for CASA to communicate with drone flyers during major events such as sporting matches, concerts and emergency response incidents.

“Over time, a CASA-approved ecosystem of apps and services will enhance drone operator choice, public safety, and spur further innovation in the drone industry. By enabling this ecosystem, CASA and the Australian Government provide a compelling example to other countries seeking to safely integrate drones into their national aviation system, and we’re excited to help support the future of Australian drone flight with them,” said Negron.

We reached out to Wing for more information, and will update if the company comments further.

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