Web: The future of drones is apps

November 2015 by: From The Web

Phones used to just call people. Then we put cameras and the internet in them, and a man in a mock turtleneck created one that revolutionized the way we communicate. You might be surprised to hear it, but we’re near a similar inflection point with drones. Right now, they’re seen either as scary, privacy-invading hovering robots, or cameras with wings of uncertain legality that hobbyists use to take photos. But in the near future, they could become as important to the way we live and work as smartphones have become. What’s missing right now is a developer community making apps that transform drones into new tools that their manufacturers haven’t even imagined. And that might be right round the corner.


Hivemapper, a web and Android app that launched today (Nov. 5), hints at what might be ahead for drones. It’s a mapping program that turns a smartphone into an augmented-reality viewfinder when it’s paired with a DJI drone. It also gives information on where drone owners can fly, and what to look out for. CEO Ariel Seidman told Quartz that he wants to be the Waze for drones.


Using a machine learning system, Seidman said Hivemapper was able to analyze high-resolution satellite images to figure out the exact shapes of 20 million buildings in the US, and the heights of 10 million of those, and show users that information in real time as they fly. The app also has information on 16,000 airports and no-fly zones in the US, and thousands of points of interest, some of which were contributed by drone enthusiasts (mainly in the Bay Area) during a closed beta trial. When flying a DJI drone with the app, users get a Google-Earth-like experience, where they can tap on buildings and points of interest they fly by to learn more about them.


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Continue Reading: Quartz