In late April, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted Alphabet’s Wing Aviation, an offshoot of Google, the first-ever Air Carrier Certificate. Allowing the commercial delivery of goods, including food, via drone was a crucial step on the FAA’s part for integrating more unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System. Before this landmark development in the U.S., Wing had also secured authorization to sell a variety of products in Australia after conducting over 70,000 test flights, and completing 3,000+ successful drone deliveries, to residents in the suburbs of Canberra.

Yesterday, Wing quietly launched its OpenSky app in the iOS and Google Play stores. It is currently available in Australia. Aimed at both commercial and recreational drone pilots, OpenSky was developed for operators to determine the best times and places to safely fly. A Wing pilot is allowed to operate a fleet of up to five drones at a time. ‘Our experience has taught us that a collaborative, industry-provided ecosystem of tools and services will be critical to allow unmanned aircraft to reach their full potential and coexist with other aircraft while ensuring safe, efficient, and equitable access to the sky,’ Wing explains on their company blog.

The OpenSky Drone Flyer App is the first release in a series of products being developed to help remote pilots understand the sky around them and provide the tools necessary to comply with all rules and regulations.

The OpenSky Drone Flyer App is the first release in a series of products being developed to help remote pilots understand the sky around them and provide the tools necessary to comply with all rules and regulations. When a drone operator opens the app and enters a location, a checklist covering a range of critical factors including airspace restrictions, known hazards, plus proximity to both airports and heliports will appear. The Australian OpenSky app will also provide alerts to emergency response situations, nearby sporting events, and other special circumstances that warrant temporary flight restrictions.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has publicly stated that it’s retiring their own ’Can I fly there?’ app and replacing it with a remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) digital platform for app developers to connect their drone safety apps. OpenSky is the first and only third-party app that was approved for, and uses, CASA’s new system. The app is also available on the web. Besides having the ability to identify rules based on what kind of flight being conducted (Recreational, Commercially Excluded, or ReOC), users can also report any unsafe or illegal flights they witness directly to CASA.

OpenSky’s web app is straightforward and easy to use. They plan to introduce voice-capabilities to make the platform more accessible in the near future.

Aside from assisting CASA with developing a range of apps that support safe flying, Wing has participated in the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management Pilot Program (UPP), is an approved Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) provider, and has participated in NASA’s Technology Capability Levels 1–3. While it is unclear if OpenSky will launch in the U.S., Wing has planned drone deliveries covering the suburbs of southwestern Virginia in the coming months. Given their relationship with Alphabet, Google’s parent company, Wing will likely have access to Google’s wealth of location data. This would give OpenSky a competitive edge over other UAS Service Suppliers including Airmap and Kittyhawk.