back to article 'Facebook for drones' Altitude Angel offers 'cloud' air traffic control

Altitude Angel calls itself “The Internet of Flying Things”, but it’s more “Facebook for drones”. It’s a database of "things" which unmanned aircraft might worry about. The idea is that whenever someone launches an Unmanned Aerial System they will check in with Altitude Angel to find out if there are hazards in the areas where …

  1. JetSetJim
    Black Helicopters


    ..and if some joker exploits the API to tell the system that there are loads of UAVs at the end of runway 1 at Heathrow, what happens? Heathrow grounded for a false alarm, or do the 747's continue to take off - potentially into a cloud of UAVs which I'm positive isn't a good thing for a jet engine

  2. Anonymous Blowhard

    What is Altitude Angels aim in this?

    On the face of it, they seem to be offering a positive service, but air traffic control is only effective if it controls all aircraft and works (almost) all the time.

    So the questions are:

    1) How are they going to make any money?

    2) Is there aim to become the de facto "Drone ATC" system, and hope that Government(s) will mandate their service?

    3) If what they're doing is a public service, why isn't public money paying for this with the usual SLA in place for such a service?

    Angels they may be, but the Devil is in the detail...

    1. Martin Gregorie

      Re: What is Altitude Angels aim in this?

      Agreed: a useful service in theory, but in practice it will only be useful for the bigger and more powerful drones and is unlikely to have much impact on the casual, know-nothing drone user.

      I worry about its apparent intent to use a 'radar feed' to handle deconfliction with manned aircraft. This gives me the impression that AA really don't know just how bad low-altitude radar coverage is even in the UK: so was I until I saw the Vulcan vanish from the trackers as it headed south from Rutland Water en route for North Weald the other Sunday. And low-altitude coverage is very poor over much of the US (UAT, which relies on it, is unlikely to work anywhere in the mountains or away from city airports without billions being spent on additional secondary radar installations).

      Another worry is that they seem unaware of the FLARM receiver network. This makes gliders, which generally don't show up well on radar, trackable over much of the UK and quite a bit of Europe. FLARM has other uses too: because the transceivers are small, light, cheap and use little power (600mW), they are practical for use on microlites, balloons, hanggliders and parascenders, all of which are pretty much radar-transparent and generally don't carry transponders. As a result, these don't currently get tracked.

      I don't think hacking or MIM issues need be a problem: end-to-end encryption will sort that out. In any case, unless AA use cellphones for realtime UAS contact, they'll end up either using satellite links or spending a fortune on relay stations simply to get round the same low-altitude coverage problem that caused the Vulcan to drop off the radar during its last tour.

  3. Vic

    It knows about manned aircraft too

    Really? That would be interesting.

    LARS quite frequently doesn't know about manned aircraft, so I'd like to see how these guys intend to do the job...

    As Martin suggested above, I'd prefer these drones to carry FLARM. That should cover pretty much the same job, but make life much safer for the rest of us to boot.


  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A bit nebulous it is......

    This is sort of like filing a flight plan and using ATC for manned aircraft then. I'm thinking funding by a government agency or two that has an interest is knowing who's flying what and where. Still, a good concept that might help keep drones away from say... forest fires. But if it were to become mandatory by said agencies than there are those who will ignore or be ignorant of the law.

  5. Steven Roper

    That's not what I was taught "cloud" meant

    Given that what used to be called a “publicly accessible database”, is now called “the Cloud”

    I believe "cloud" refers to a network structure, not a database.

    ISTR from my college IT course in networking that "cloud" simply referred to an unknown network - that is, any part of a network topology outside of your direct administrative influence, ergo not under your control. Generally that was taken to mean the internet.

    For example, if your network existed in multiple physical locations connected by lines not owned or exclusively leased by your organisation, then the links between the locations were shown as passing through an "internet cloud" to indicate that any network traffic through that section was passing through unknown or undefined infrastructure not under your control, therefore not secure. The "cloud" symbol thus illustrated areas where a VPN or SSL was needed to secure data passing though the unknown network.

    That's why the symbol was a cloud, to indicate a nebulous, chaotic entity in your network topology to be considered a weakness or vulnerability requiring resolution from a security auditing perspective. The cloud symbolised an issue of data and network control, not public accessibility.

    As far as I'm concerned, that's still what the cloud represents.

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