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Alphabet’s Wing launches app to manage air traffic for drones

For companies like Wing, a robust air management system is crucial

Photo: Alphabet

Wing, an offshoot of Google parent company Alphabet, unveiled a new app to help manage an airspace full of unruly drones. Building an air traffic control system for drones that is similar to the one that currently guides airplanes through the sky has become an increasing focus of many tech companies that envision drones doing everything from making deliveries to helping keep our airspace secure. And now Wing has built an app that could serve as a platform for that future system.

The app is called OpenSky, and it’s been approved to manage drone flights in Australia, where it is free. Earlier this year, Wing was approved to launch its first public drone delivery service in that country after Australia’s aviation authority granted it regulatory approval. The app is available in both the Google Play and Apple App stores, as well as on the web. The news of the app was first reported by Bloomberg.

“Whether you’re a hobbyist who loves to fly, or a business that uses unmanned aircraft to survey land or deliver goods, OpenSky makes it easy to find out where and how to fly, tailored to your operation,” the company says on its website.

For companies like Wing, a robust air management system is crucial if it wants to realize its goal of thousands of small drones zipping along at low altitudes without crashing into buildings, trees, or each other. Numerous companies, including AirMap and Iris Automation, are working on similar air traffic control systems.

Wing is also working with the US Federal Aviation Administration to pilot a drone delivery system. But Australia and its neighbor New Zealand have been at the forefront of small, electric, unpiloted aviation. The Australian regulator, CASA, claims that Wing’s drone delivery launch in April was “very likely” a world first. Kitty Hawk, the flying car company backed by Google founder Larry Page, received certification to launch a commercial service in New Zealand last year.

Wing became a full company underneath the Alphabet corporate umbrella last year, alongside the likes of self-driving company Waymo and internet balloon startup Loon, after having previously been classed as an X moonshot project. In December, Wing announced that it was launching a trial service in Finland where it would offer 10-minute deliveries for free within the country’s capital.