AirMap is a free, comprehensive digital map that allows unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators to visualize the airspace around them, including areas where they may not be permitted to fly. Airspace rules are complex. AirMap removes barriers to compliance by providing the low altitude airspace information that unmanned aircraft operators need. AirMap was cofounded by aviation expert and entrepreneur Ben Marcus and Dr. Gregory McNeal, a leading legal scholar on drones, public policy and air rights.
AirMap integrates multiple sources of reliable data and gives UAS operators an easy-to-use, yet detailed, solution providing a single view of the restricted areas around an area of operations. The beta-version of the site is now live in the U.S. and launching internationally soon, enabling UAS operators to immediately start benefiting from the free service. AirMap also features a feedback function that will allow beta testers to request additional features.
The genius of AirMap is that it’s a fully digital map that shows only the airspace rules that impact UAS operators. By focusing on airspace information from ground level up to 500 feet, AirMap strips away the clutter of higher altitude airspace labels found on charts that were created for manned aviation. AirMap will become a necessary tool for UAS flights because it was created by UAS operators, for UAS operators.
When using AirMap, an operator can customize their display based on the type of operation they are involved in. Operators can select layers depicting the following:
- Recreational use, which will display the airspace areas around airports which are limited by community-based guidelines;
- “Blanket COA” rules applicable to holders of FAA Section 333 exemptions for commercial UAS operations; and
- Controlled airspace (Class B, C, D, and E) at 500 feet and below, allowing UAS operators to voluntarily comply with the airspace rules proposed in the FAA’s recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
“As UAS use continues to expand, the airspace in which operators are flying is also growing more complex. With this in mind, we’ve launched AirMap, which will serve as a resource for drone operators to immediately fly safely and in compliance with legal requirements. We want to make safe flying easy,” said Marcus.
Marcus and McNeal teamed to launch AirMap after they realized that operators needed a tool that would let them understand the complexities of restricted airspace for unmanned aircraft operations. Marcus, who co-founded leading aircraft brokerage firm jetAVIVA, will lead development and business growth functions. McNeal will apply his expertise and research in local regulatory environments to help AirMap reach and educate users throughout the country. In addition to his role with AirMap, McNeal is an Associate Professor of Law and Public Policy at Pepperdine University, a Forbes contributor, and a nationally renowned scholar who has been published widely.
“As a drone operator I found it hard to know what the airspace rules were in the places where I wanted to fly. There were no accurate visuals or reliable electronic tools that could tell me and other operators where we can and cannot fly. AirMap solves this problem and helps to educate operators about this complex regulatory environment,” said McNeal. “The demand for AirMap is clear, as it is the most thorough resource for drone operators to ensure safe, legal and hassle-free flight.”
AirMap’s advisory board includes Dr. Steve Crocker, Internet pioneer and chairman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Stuart Banner, UCLA law professor and author of “Who Owns the Sky,” Tom McInerney, serial entrepreneur and former scientist at Apple, and Mike Mothner, founder and CEO of WPromote.
In February 2015, AirMap launched its first service, NoFlyZone.org, which accepts registrations from property owners who prefer UAS not overfly their land. These parcels are displayed in AirMap to help operators avoid sensitive areas, and minimize the hassles associated with disputes about where unmanned aircraft should be operating. AirMap also displays hospitals, schools, and helipads and will be adding other sensitive sites in the future.