As drones’ popularity for both commercial and recreational flight grows, their pilots and those of traditional manned aircraft have an increasing need for real-time information to prevent drone-related collisions.
Addressing that need was a key premise from the winning team’s idea during the first annual goIT Aviation Challenge launched in Toledo. Creators of the app idea known as DroneSpace, Kian Moore, Neil Seppala, Chris Adams, and Trent Beehner, explained that it is an interactive app that keeps the air space safer by allowing users to know where their drone and other aircrafts are and informs the operator of obstacles like cell towers, no-fly zones, and powerlines.
Apps exist that provide drone pilots with maps and information about airspace rules and no-fly zones, among other things, and enable them to submit flight-plan requests to an automated approval system operated by the Federal Aviation Administration. The DroneSpace team’s concept would expand those resources to incorporate identifying and location data from airplanes and — once a pending federal regulation takes effect — from other drones, plus information about ground-based hazards like power lines.
The DroneSpace team, as well as their classmates, had just 2 days to brainstorm their ideas, complete market research and prototype solutions by harnessing technology. goIT Toledo ended with presentations to a panel of judges, who were impressed with the team’s concept and marketability.
“I would like to pursue [DroneSpace] if anybody’s interested,” Neil Seppala, a sophomore student from Metamora, Ohio, said after his team’s entry received the judges’ accolades.
Drones were the focus as well of one of the other contest entries, which suggested a drone-focused social-media app. Other subjects that the students — sophomores and juniors in groups of two to four — tackled included faster calculation of weight and balance for airplane stability, use of photo and video systems to verify maintenance logs, and assessment of instructional aids for learning-disabled students studying to become pilots or mechanics.
Apps to simplify aircraft parts inventories and purchasing and to provide faster access to aircraft model data and specifications were chosen by the judges for third and second places, respectively.
In an address to the students before their presentations began, Mr. Suresh Subasinghe, the director of digital platform architecture for Air Canada, urged them to develop combinations of skills that would make them more valuable to employers and to experiment ‘in controlled settings’ to build their experience and use failure to learn.
“Being passionate about what you do is important because, without that passion, willingness to put in superior effort also is absent”, he said.
Jack Hunter, the aviation academy’s principal, said the amount of time students spent on their entries exceeded his expectations, and they demonstrated empathy and collaboration.
“It was a great way to build school culture,” Mr. Hunter said.
Preston Wood, a Toledo junior who worked on the weight-and-balance team, said "working on the contest entry helps us become problem-solving people, which will help us later on in life.”
“It helped a lot of us learn about the technology that people go forth and put into these apps and the software they create for aviation,” said Michael Hubbell, a junior from Toledo who worked on the third-place parts-logistics app concept.
And Logan Nidek, an aviation academy junior from Berkey who worked on the Aviation Learning Assistance concept, said the three-day project “helped us work together as a team,” which will be needed when he and his classmates enter the working world.
“It was a great experience,” Nidek said. “It allowed us to bring out our competitive side, at the same time making sure we had fun.”