Rupert Benbrook, Chief Evangelist at Altitude Angel
Altitude Angel are proud to support the open-source Mission Planner (a popular ground-station controller) and ArduPilot community. For over a year now, we have been providing our class-leading airspace and ground hazard data to Mission Planner users so that they can make better informed and safer decisions about where to fly their drones.
What is a Flight Report?
A Flight Report is a voluntary declaration by a drone pilot to share information about where and when they are flying their drone in real-time, which in turn is then shared with other airspace users, contributing to reduced overall risk in the airspace. Critically, using the Altitude Angel developer platform, flight reports are shared without revealing any personally identifiable information, enabling the drone operator to optionally include other information they do wish to share.
Flight Reporting is already incorporated into many of our partners’ apps via our APIs. This means that tens of thousands of drone pilots use flight reporting daily.
In the future, we will also provide the opportunity for commercial pilots to digitally request access to airspace that requires authorization, such as in the US under LAANC, this would mean Mission Planner users will be among the first in the world to be able to fly in more areas with full authorisation embedded within the application, without a lengthy delay generating paperwork, or the need to use other apps as is currently the case.
How to use Flight Reporting in Mission Planner
We’ve done our best to integrate with the familiar flight planning experience already offered by Mission Planner. The basic idea is that a flight report is automatically generated whenever the connected drone is armed. There’s nothing to fill-out, it’s handled for drone pilots according to their defaults. Then, when the drone is disarmed, we’ll automatically mark the flight report as completed. It’s that simple!
The only requirement is for an active internet connection. We’ve observed many users simply connect their laptop, tablet or flight control station to their mobile hotspot. Drone pilots can of course continue to plan their flights in advance using Drone Safety Map, via our APIs, or through any of our partner’s apps.
Here we have Mission Planner configured with a simple and very small flight plan:
When we execute this flight plan, as soon as the drone is armed, a flight report is created and submitted to Altitude Angel, and you can see this reflected in the Mission Planner flight data map:
You can even check it out in Drone Safety Map. There’s no delay; as soon as you arm your drone the report will appear online and across our network. This also means that other Mission Planner users will also see your nearby drone flight as will thousands of other drone operators around the world, using any of our partner applications! You can even request access to the flight report data feed to include into your own apps, too.
Flight Reports: in detail
For drones that arm with no flight plan programmed then the flight area will be centred on the current location of the drone (as determined via Mission Planner) and a radius of 500 meters will be set, which is an accepted radius for VLOS (visual line-of-sight) flights. When flight plan waypoints have been programmed into Mission Planner, the flight area will be a bounding circular radius of all the flight plan waypoints with a minimum radius of 500 metres, or if the radius is larger than 500 metres, the largest radius to encompass all the waypoints with a buffer of 50 meters. By default, the flight reports we submit for you are named “MissionPlanner Flight”, set to non-commercial, and last for a default duration of 60 minutes. These default parameters can be changed through settings, which are accessed by right-clicking the Flight Data map and selecting Altitude Angel Settings:
If a drone operator decides not to opt-in to Altitude Angel features, they won’t be asked to sign-in and data will never be sent to us. If you do opt-in, the flight reporting feature will automatically be enabled.
Users do, of course, have the ability to disable automatic flight reporting in Settings.
We hope to share some more exciting news soon, so check back regularly for upcoming announcements. We’re always interested to here from the drone community, so if you have any comments or feedback on this new feature, or requests for future features, then please feel free to reach out to us on Twitter (@altitudeangel)!
We will continue to contribute to the Mission Planner community to increase awareness and improve safety.