November 13, 2020
If you fly a drone for fun or for work, you know how important it is to have a clear picture of the airspace around you. With better information you can make better decisions to ensure your drone operation is safe, lawful and lets you accomplish your goals. Today, we’re excited to announce new features in our OpenSky app that will make that a little easier.
Since we launched OpenSky over a year ago, drone flyers from the desert of Alice Springs to the coastline of Western Australia (and everywhere in between) have been sharing their stories and feedback with us.
We’ve read every piece of feedback, and through that process we discovered some consistent feature requests. (1) You’ve asked for more information about ground restrictions such as National Parks, and (2) better visibility and detail about active fires on the OpenSky map.
In response to your feedback, we’re excited to announce a few product updates: national park advisories, a new user interface to make it easier to identify active fires, and have added data sources to provide better real-time awareness of bushfire extents.
With these new features, we hope to bring simpler awareness of the airspace so you can focus on flying.
Read on for more details about our new OpenSky app features.
As part of this feature roll out, we’re introducing national park advisories. While the airspace is a federally managed resource, there are also ‘ground restrictions’, or areas you are not allowed to take off or land a drone. The challenge has been that information about these ground advisories were not included in the national data feeds that we use to collect information about the airspace.
Understandably, this can be confusing. Imagine showing up at a national park ready to fly your drone, only to find a sign saying you can’t take off or land your drone on national park property.
These parks are owned, managed and funded by State and Territory governments through agencies such as the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service, and Parks Victoria. Each park authority is responsible for their own drone operations. For example, the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service page has a form an operator needs to fill out and submit for approval to takeoff. This happens on a state-by-state basis.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australia has 681 “national parks”. Queensland leads the way with 237 national parks, closely followed by New South Wales with 235 national parks.
That’s a lot of parks. When you search an address or run your pre-flight check, OpenSky will check and identify any known national parks in that area. If your location pin is not in a national park, the app will show you the normal green checkmark saying you’re ready to fly.
To keep the OpenSky interface simple and clear, the inclusion of these advisories will not display an outline of each park next time you open up your app. (All totaled we'll have over 16,000 areas in our database including nature reserves, conservation areas, heritage agreement areas and others!)
If your location pin is within the boundary of a national park, you will receive an advisory alert. The pin in your check-list will change to yellow and you will see instructions in your check-list about how to contact the appropriate authorities.
Today there’s no aggregated, national database on active fires. Fire feeds are managed by State or Territory fire agencies, and each feed is structured differently with varying levels of detail.
The way we are addressing this is, first and foremost, by working with individual States and Territories and with CASA to improve the quality of the feeds. We will also continue working with related agencies on a federal feed. Second, we have incorporated a new feed for Victoria, which will provide detailed polygon boundaries of fires in a specific area. In the event of a fire, OpenSky checks the official feed once every minute to provide the latest information to drone operators.
CASA airspace rules state that a drone flyer must be 30 metres away from a fire incident. Sometimes, the official source of information only provides a ‘point’ where the fire is burning. In those cases OpenSky will place a fire symbol and a 30 metre buffer around the ‘fire point’.
In this case, we have incorporated a fire symbol so operators can see the icon even if they are zoomed out on the map. A flyer will be able to see the fire icon, which before may have been nearly invisible to them, and the attributes of the feed, so they can make a better decision on whether to avoid that area because it’s not safe. We remind all users of the OpenSky app that it is their responsibility to exercise caution when deciding to fly, especially near areas where fires have been reported.
We hope this additional fire information will provide better awareness so users can make smart and safe decisions.
If you're already an OpenSky user, you will have access to these features next time you update your app. We’re thankful for the community of drone flyers who use OpenSky, send us feedback and share their stories with us. We would love to hear more, so feel free to post about your experience on social media with #MyOpenSky.
For all those who aren’t using OpenSky yet, we encourage you to get started today. Australian drone operators can download the OpenSky app for free from the Google Play store or the Apple App Store, or access the web version on desktop. For more information visit wing.com/opensky.
Of course, Wing’s OpenSky team isn’t finished yet. We look forward to expanding the features available in OpenSky with things like remote ID and automated requests for access to controlled airspace. We are excited to be working to bring those to OpenSky in the not-so-distant future.