LATAS is the air traffic controller for drones

IDG News Service | Jun 7, 2016

The system combines satellite and air traffic data to ensure that a drone is flying in the clear.

It'a likely that hundreds of drones will be flying in our skies over the next couple of year. So how do we keep track of them?

I caught up with Vice President of Airspace Services at PrecisionHawk to talk about LATAS, the company's new drone communication service.

Question 1: What is LATAS?
Latas is our technology…our platform of essentially different data layers of what’s around the drone that I need to know to be able to fly the drone safely. We are taking lots of satellite data that we collect via satellites and we are processing that data into a very high resolution, 3D map of the Earth. So now I know what’s on the ground. I know where the buildings are, I know where the trees are, where the power lines are. So that I can take that data in conjunction with airspace data and manned air traffic data so that I can understand what’s around the drone. And if I can understand what’s around the drone, I can understand what that risk is.

Question 2: How does it work?
All the software we’re using to process this data has been developed in-house. We’re working with a number of our partners, such as Digital Globe, who owns a number of satellites, and what we’re actually doing is we’re pulling in satellite data, we’re processing that satellite data and turning that 2D image into a 3D model. And we can see where the buildings are, how tall the buildings are, where the trees are. So now we are taking that data from the satellites and using it in a new way.

Question 3: Why do this?
From our company’s background, traditionally we work with large enterprise companies. In the agriculture space, in the energy space, insurance space. That they wanna roll out very large fleets of drones. They wanna put them in the hands of agronomists, they wanna put them in the hands of insurance adjusters, who may not be pilots. So we’re developing technologies, and we were pushed by those partners to develop technologies like LATAS to help them mitigate their own risks so that they could understand how to fly safely. So when they put a drone in the hand of an agronomist, we would know that that drone won’t run into things on the ground and won’t run into things in the air because we know where those things are.

Question 4: What's next for LATAS?
Our theme is ‘just fly.’ You should be able to have the technology in the drone itself to allow you to go out and fly that drone safely from day one. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional going out and doing a commercial job. So we’re working with a number of different drone manufacturers today, to integrate this technology into their drones, from the recreational drones, all the way up to the expensive commercial drones because everybody needs the same data. We understand what’s around us, so that we don’t run into things. And we mitigate that risk and make flying the drone safer.