LA is a great place to be building a drone company

On Thursday night at Cross Campus in Santa Monica, I spoke about the drone ecosystem and how LA is a great place to be building a drone company. Los Angeles was the center of aerospace innovation in the 20th century. Together with our friends across industry, we’re making it the 21st century home for the next frontier of aerospace technology.

Donald Douglas founded his aircraft company in Santa Monica in 1921. In 1924, the first ever flight around the world was made by the Douglas World Cruisers, which took off from Clover Field, the present-day site of Santa Monica Airport.

Douglas World Cruisers, prior to departure from Santa Monica, CA on the first circumnavigation of the world by airplane in 1924.

The first commercially viable airliner was the Douglas DC-3, every copy of which was built at the Santa Monica factory.

Delta Air Lines Douglas DC-3
The Douglas aircraft factory at Santa Monica Airport employed more than 44,000 people in the 1940s.

As Douglas developed heavier airplanes and eventually jets like the DC-8, the runway at Santa Monica became too short and the company moved to nearby Long Beach. Just south of Santa Monica in Culver City and El Segundo, innovators like Hughes developed airplanes, helicopters, and satellites.

Today, SpaceX is forging new ground from their Hawthorne, CA headquarters, and companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR have joined Scaled Composites in the nearby Mojave desert.

Ben speaking at Cross Campus in Santa Monica on September 24, 2015.

But what does the future hold for aviation technology? Since the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903, aviation technology has been about connecting people across borders. When Charles Lindbergh made his record-setting solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, he couldn’t have possibly imagined that only 40 years later people would be getting on Boeing 747s in Los Angeles and arriving in London just 10 hours later. Air travel has become a natural part of our lives.

The next frontier of aerospace technology won’t be about connecting people across borders, it’ll be about connecting one street corner to the next, it’ll be about collecting data to help us understand our communities better. It’s all about local. We’re already seeing drones being use for all kinds of inspiring applications, like aerial photography and cinematography, much of which is driven by Hollywood (also part of LA). Aerial Mob and CTRL.ME Robotics, both LA-based companies, create awesome aerial art. Santa Monica-based Dronebase helps connect real-estate, construction, and other industrial customers with the aerial images and data they need.

In ten years, the ways in which we’ll most be enjoying drones haven’t even been dreamt up yet. There are myriad opportunities for innovators to jump into this exciting emerging ecosystem and build great businesses. It feels great to be a part of this new community of collaborators.

For my team and me at AirMap, our calling is to provide access to the world’s low altitude airspace information so that drones and their operators can understand where it’s safe to fly. Without this information, innovation cannot take flight. And our job isn’t easy. Gathering, scrubbing, curating, and maintaining a global, precise, dynamic airspace dataset is hard. Serving that information up in ways that are simple to use is even harder. That’s why our team is dedicated entirely to this specific contribution to our new industry.

One example of how AirMap makes its airspace information useful is through the Know Before You Fly campaign. Together with industry and government collaborators, we’re helping to keep people who are new to drones as safe as possible.

AirMap airspace information integrated into the Know Before You Fly campaign.

Another example is the integration of AirMap’s airspace information into the popular app for recreational drone pilots called Hover, which provides weather information, a news feed, flight logging capabilities, and other information, in addition to an airspace map.

Download Hover from the Apple Store or Google Play today!

Next week, AirMap will be releasing its map SDK to a limited number of beta tester app developers in preparation for a mainstream release by the end of the year. The SDK allows developers building apps for drones to easily incorporate airspace information into their products. Sign up for early access to the SDK by visiting AirMap’s website at www.airmap.io.

AirMap is hiring! If you love drones, you like the idea of working with a bunch of smart, passionate, executers four blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, and you want to build a foundational element of the aeronautical infrastructure of the future, we want to talk with you! Learn more by clicking here.

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