Roads, Bridges And… Drones? Infrastructure Redefined

 

State and local funding efforts to build reliable, sustainable infrastructure have historically been key drivers of thriving economies. The current infrastructure bill making its way through Congress could bring up to $1Trillion in federal funding for infrastructure.

To some, the term “infrastructure” only includes the more traditional items like roads, bridges and utility networks. But, as new dimensions of mobility are introduced, the definition of “infrastructure” continues to expand and gain new meaning. Just as cars need roads to drive on and trains need rail tracks, they also require digital components to operate in the modern world. Adaptive traffic signal technology modifies signal timing based on traffic patterns at that time of day and technology like postitive train control, a GPS-based safety technology that can stop a train and prevent collisions, are just two examples of the digital components in current ground infrastructure.   Just as you wouldn’t build a business in 2021 without a website presence, infrastructure in this era will also require digital components.

Drones are an emerging industry that require new infrastructure to operate safely, compliantly, and at scale. Today’s current air traffic control infrastructure is not designed for this type of low altitude mode of air mobility yet. However, the FAA is actively working with a spectrum of partners on new solutions as drone use cases steadily increase.  Drones are used in various industries, from public safety and inspection, to time-sensitive medical delivery, to retail package delivery. With the announcement of a bipartisan bill to authorize $100M in grants for state and local governments to use drone technology to visually inspect infrastructure and another $100 million to train employees to use the drones properly; there is a significant opportunity to direct funding to deploy digital infrastructure to support these use cases safely.

The American Rescue plan also provides an opportunity to explore these funds for digital infrastructure application. Brookings Metro conducted a survey analyzing the $130 billion in federal recovery funds allocated in March 2021 and found some clear learning across the board: “How much room remains for city leaders to adopt thoughtful, evidence-based, equity-oriented approaches to using these substantial one-time funds. Cities that got out of the gate with comprehensive plans bridging high-level goals with project-level details—such as Boston, Buffalo, St. Louis, and Seattle—offer models for how other cities can approach this historic opportunity.”

Applying these same principles to the infrastructure bill, state and local governments will need to think creatively and comprehensively to maximize these one-time federal investments’ impacts on their futures.

 

Airspace Link was founded in 2018 with a vision to create this new type of infrastructure for drones to help them continue to scale safely. Airspace Link’s AirHub™ Platform is the only one of its kind to integrate directly with federal, state, and local governments to develop a digital drone infrastructure with community considerations in mind.

The platform is based on Esri™ Geospatial Information Services (GIS), the global market leader in GIS. Airspace Link integrates the local geospatial information into the AirHub™ Platform, combines that with the FAA’s rules and regulations of the airspace, and additional 3rd party datasets to enable safer and compliant flights across communities.

The level of detail in the AirHub™ Platform increases drone pilots’ awareness of potential hazards and risks to utilize in the planning and execution of safer operations. Investments in this infrastructure can help communities increase safety today while also laying the groundwork for advanced operations and the corresponding rise in economic opportunity that is projected to follow.

To learn more about safely integrating drones into your community, reach out to us at hello@airspacelink.com or sign up for a trial account today.

Looking to use federal infrastructure funding to prepare for drone operations in your community? We can help. Reach out to sales@airspacelink.com to find out how.

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