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News & Notes

Hangar Acquires Autonomous Flight Software Company Autoflight Logic

Data from drones is about to get more accurate and attainable

November 21, 2016

“It really is better for the operators and it’s better for the clients that are wanting the data."
Austin, TX-based Hangar acquired the autonomous flight software company Autoflight Logic, marking its first major public step toward building its autonomous data capture ecosystem for drones.

“By placing the core software from Autoflight Logic at the center of a global network of drones, Hangar is positioned to become the first robots-as-a-service platform,” Autoflight Logic founder and now CTO of Hangar Jim McAndrew said in a news release. “Need to deploy a sensor or move something around? There's an API for that: Hangar.”

Hangar makes it easy for companies to use drone tech without having to waste money and time. Everything from flying the drone to getting the data to the end user will be handled autonomously, ultimately streamlining the entire process.

“We acquire the raw data ― that’s where our family jewels are ― in a very, very low cost fashion through autonomous flight and a logistics planning app engine that mobilizes sensors into the field," Hangar President and Cofounder Colin Guinn says.


Sharing is caring

Sounds like a lot of work, huh? It is, but Hangar isn’t spending time trying to create software for every type of job (like mapping, video, and panoramas). The startup will make it easier for enterprise demand for aerial data to be connected with current technologies and software apps.

“There’s a number of different transforms that our customers want in different industries; for us, it just makes a lot more sense if we can find the right partners for each type of transform,” he says.

Guinn and Hangar's CEO Jeff DeCoux began talking about Hangar's business model about five years ago, when it simply wasn’t possible. But thanks to new regulations and the vast growth of the drone industry, now it is.

“We will not employ any pilots or own any drones as a company,” Guinn says. “For lack of a more analogous metaphor, it’s kind of like the Uber model.”

Drone pilots who go through the Hangar onboarding process — demonstrating that they have the correct hardware and a Part 107 certification ― can accept jobs, head to a job site, and just press a button.
“We can create this autonomous flight plan that no longer requires a two-person operation, because now we are controlling the drone’s flight pattern, as well as the gimbal, the camera, the recording, all of it,” Guinn says. “Now, the drone operator, all he, or she, has to do is set the drone down, hit the button, and let that flying robot fly around.”

Autoflight Logic's built-in flight controller allows Hangar to send virtual stick commands to a drone, not waypoints, which makes for more accurate data gathering.

While many commercial drone pilots might have conflicted feelings about this level of autonomy, Guinn says that this actually opens up the opportunity for operators to conduct more flights, resulting in more income.

“It really is better for the operators and it’s better for the clients that are wanting the data,” he says.


Desire for data

When working at both DJI and 3D Robotics, Guinn would demonstrate drones and their data gathering potential to large companies. And he always got the same response.

“’That’s amazing. I love that data. Is there someone that can just give me that data?’ They just don’t want to buy their own drones,” he says.

Guinn admits that it makes sense for some large companies, like BNSF Railroad, to invest in a drone department if they’re planning to use UAS frequently. However, for many other, smaller companies, it likely makes more sense to outsource.

Hangar, which is still in beta and very much in stealth mode as Guinn puts it, has completed more than 1,000 missions in the Austin area over the last six to eight weeks.

“The big technical challenges for us are finding ways to do more types of jobs that can be done fully autonomously, end-to-end, with commodity hardware,” he says.

Check out our 5 Questions with Guinn, where he tells us his best moment involving a drone.
Featured image: Hangar/Autoflight Logic