Distributed Sky Launches a Blockchain Framework For Drone Market
Distributed Sky team has been developing software tools that help organize the market for autonomous drone services for the past two years. In 2017 it became clear that a UAS traffic management (UTM) system is the major next step the drone industry needs to go through to unlock the full potential of autonomous drones.
The team was doing research on the UTM technologies for the past 6 month working together with experts from Airalab, Simlabs and other research groups. “The project of such scale and complexity requires a joint effort of all stakeholders in the commercial drone industry because we all have to share the same airspace,” COO Vitaly Bulatov tells DroneNodes. “Blockchain technology can facilitate the cooperation of all stakeholders on commercial drone market”.
DISTRIBUTED SKY is a global air traffic management system running on a world computer.
In future where drones will be collecting data, delivering packages and even transfering people in “smart cities”, UTM will be a complex system consisting of many components. They can generally be divided in three groups: traffic, communication and supplemental data.
With the end of research phase the team is ready to show the first part of the vision - UAS registration system. It is powered by public Ethereum blockchain which allows global access and guarantees validity of data. The system allows to give an identity to an autonomous system which later can also be used to create “smart contracts” directly between users and autonomous drones. Other components of Distributed Sky UTM system are already discussed.
Airalab team is helping with market mechanisms and blockchain technology. This allows to improve cybersecurity of UTM systems, as well as provide a monetary incentive for private companies to support the infrastructure for public initiatives like UTM. Distributed architecture protects the system and allows to organize communication of autonomous systems locally through a peer-2-peer network.
Simlabs team has been developing Air Traffic Management simulation and training solutions and has a deep understanding of traffic management in aviation. In Distributed Sky project Simlabs is using its UAV simulation environment platform to work on reliable and convenient mechanisms for creating and managing airspace structure and drone highways, UAV flight plans generation and deconfliction, as well as UAV swarms formation and local navigation patterns analysis.
Considering ground infrastructure and ground elevation allows to deduce long routes over cities and minimize distraction and noise in quiet populated areas. On the individual level, drones can perform multiple missions in one flight, as well as jointly execute single service to optimize the performance and bring extra benefits for drone service providers in future.
> What challenges lie ahead for full Distributed Sky implementation?
Distributed Sky is a vision of an airborne logistics network where autonomous drones coordinate their actions and deliver goods and services without human control.
The first and most important stage of this vision is enabling safe flights in shared airspace. Without a UAS Traffic Management system we will not see millions of drones in the sky and applications will still be limited to local environments.
Secondly, we need to ensure that the system would be scalable. The fact that we can use Ethereum blockchain to combine technical and economical parameters into one transaction allows us to create truly autonomous aerial systems.
Finally, the system should be adaptable to human needs. Market mechanism is the most robust and sustainable way to manage complex systems. And robotic systems would act as independent economic agents on this market.
> Did you manage to establish any concrete dialog with regulatory agencies such as FAA?
We are in contact with regulators and ANSPs around the world for over 2 years and we tell them about distributed technologies applicable to UTM systems regularly. However, in all countries the process of integrating UASs into the national airspace is still on research stage. For example, in the USA FAA was collecting applications from private companies to become UAS Service Suppliers from April 16 to May 16 of 2018.
We are building a software framework for UAS Service Suppliers to work together and coordinate their actions based on Ethereum smart contracts, as well as build tools for UAS operators and autonomous systems to integrate. A market based approach is the most robust to coordinate complex systems with many different stakeholders and that is why it lies in the foundation of our work.
Currently, regulators allow industry members to take an active part in development of traffic management systems. For us it is an opportunity to tell about blockchain technology and its benefits for complex multi-agent systems and provide a ready-to-use blockchain framework to companies that need it - UAS Service Suppliers.
Do you find Ethereum Blockchain the only go to platform for Distributed Sky, or you consider other platforms; such as Stellar ie.?
We are using Ethereum Blockchain as the only platform that is ready for us to use. We are obviously following the developments from Stellar, IOTA, EOS and many others but so far we do not see that we can use any of the projects to realize the vision we have for distributed UTM.
Moreover, we are closely following Polkadot project by Gavin Wood and in case it succeeds we will be able to work with other platforms using Polkadot technology. This seems to us as the most desirable path to grow Distributed Sky vision beyond Ethereum platform.
What risks does Ethereum Blockchain currently poses regarding effectively executing Distribute Sky smart contracts?
The process of flight plan approval can take days now, not even mentioning the fact that the security of the process is suboptimal and it is not capable to cope with millions of drone flights that are coming.
Using Ethereum platform we are able to combine technical and economic parameters of transaction which allows us to speak about truly autonomous systems and even whole supply chains. By using Ethereum smart contracts we are not only able to improve security dramatically, but most importantly we cut the wait time from days to minutes.
For example, Amazon wants to do a Prime Air delivery in under 45 minutes. When the request is received from a customer the drone automatically sends requests for flight plan approval, insurance and other supporting services while the order is being assembled at the warehouse. When the package is ready, a economically independent drone is also ready to go for a mission as well.
Moreover, in some cases it may not even be necessary to upload the flight plan every time. If DHL flies a mission every hour from the wrehouse to the airport and back this route can be logged in and approved only once, eliminating the need to create a smart contract every single time the drone takes this route.
How many developers are working on the project?
Distributed Sky is a vision that multiple companies share and want to bring to life together. The primary developer of the framework is Drone Employee with 4 developers working on the project with expertise in robotics, blockchain architecture and software development.
Our goal is to attract more companies to join our open-source initiative. But even with the relatively small internal team at Drone Employee we are still capable of making big projects with support from our partners.
When do you plan to lunch ICO for Distributed Skies Project?
We believe that to do an ICO we need to gather a community of companies sharing the same vision. Currently, Drone Employee team commits 95% of the project.
As was mentioned earlier we already moved forward significantly and in addition to Airalab and Simlabs we are already talking with a few other companies to join Distributed Sky including some big names in the drone industry.
Currently, we are focused on showing the capabilities of the blockchain framework for the drone market together with industry members. And when we will see the interest and the need to do an ICO to push the joint vision forward we will certainly do so.
Our approach has always been to focus on development. We believe that in order to attract capital to the internal market of drone services through the token sale, you need to form this market first.
We would be glad to start a conversation with drone companies who are willing to use our blockchain framework and become a part of Distributed Sky.
Vitaly Bulatov COO of Distributed Sky