While drone deliveries hold a ton of promise for tomorrow (burritos by air in just five minutes!), there are a ton of issues today that drone delivery needs to deal with. And a major hurdle for drone delivery will be the patchwork of state and local laws regulating where, when, and how many drones can fly in a given day.
AirSpace Link is a startup looking to help alleviate those and other administrative issues around drone delivery. The company came out of stealth mode today and launched its drone delivery registry, where people can register their dwelling or business as a location at which drone deliveries can be made.
There are actually four parts to AirSpace Link’s platform:
- AirRegistry: Where people can opt-in or out of receiving drone deliveries at their home or place of business.
- AirInspect: A service that handles all of the requisite city and state permitting for delivery companies in order to enable drone delivery.
- AirNet: Working in conjunction with the FAA, AirNet creates a federally approved air route or “highway in the sky” for each drone delivery. These routes take into consideration things like schools and jails and other landmarks that must be avoided.
- AirLink: An API that connects participating delivery services with the local governments and collects a fee that is paid to said local governments.
Now you should know that just because you register on AirSpace doesn’t mean that a drone will be dropping by your driveway any time soon. For now, the registry is a way to aggregate interest: Cities and companies alike can gauge how many people opt-in (or out) of drone delivery in various markets.
Additionally, location registration must be completed manually (for now), with a person actually visiting a site to determine exact landing locations and make other assessments. Michael Healander, Co-Founder of AirSpace Link told me by phone that registry process will eventually be automated, and instead of a standalone site, opting in to drone delivery will be built into individual delivery apps.
Right now, local government rules around drone delivery are “all over the place,” according to Healander. To help cities get started with understanding and drafting drone delivery procedures, AirSpace Link offers a number of consulting packages for city and state governments ranging from $9,000 to $49,000. Eventually, AirSpace Link will also generate revenue through a SaaS model where fees are charged to the delivery companies.
Based in Detroit, MI, AirSpace Link incorporated in March of 2018 and soft-launched, running various tests with different government agencies and delivery companies throughout the past year. The company is founder funded, and Healander says they’re in the process of closing a round of venture funding right now.
Healander says the goal for AirSpace Link is to become a “neutral platform” that will connect any delivery service with any city and the federal government. The question will be how much control bigger companies like Amazon and UPS will want to give up in order to streamline future drone delivery operations.
Permits may be the less sexy side of drone delivery, but they are vital to its growth. Companies like Uber may be accelerating their drone delivery ambitions, but the fastest drones in the world can’t deliver your dinner if they are grounded by the government. Companies like AirSpace Link and AirMatrix, which provides similar air route mapping services, will be the bridge drones will fly over in order to bring you that burrito.