Ex-Hailo boss wants to make ‘Wild West’ drones safe (Wired UK)

Bregman reckons drone regulation in Europe is two years ahead of the USA


Jay Bregman, the former CEO of Hailo, believes drones are the future. His new company, Verifly, is creating a global drone database in an attempt to encourage growth and support regulators.

Fresh from a £1.4m funding round, Bregman tells WIRED.co.uk that the drone market is still “a very Wild West place”. Drones are flying where they shouldn’t, putting passenger planes at risk and landing unwitting pilots in trouble. Commercial pressure is also growing as companies such as Amazon test drones for use as miniature couriers.

“This is not a friendly place for business,” he explains. Bregman cofounded Hailo in 2011, before leaving the company late last year, and believes his new venture can do for drones what Hailo and Uber have done for taxis — attempt to bring order to the chaos. Bregman describes the business as a “trust layer”, with Verifly hoping to collect information on drone traffic and restrictions to help pilots fly more safely.

“There isn’t a database of where these things can fly,” he says. “Putting this data together creates a valuable resource [and] reduces the burden on over-stretched regulators”. Verifly plans to build on existing geospatial technology developed by drone manufacturers and combine this with data from regulators and aviation authorities to create the world’s first comprehensive drone database.

Exactly what information Verifly has access to remains unclear but Bregman is clear on how such a system could work. The database, he explains, would provide geospatial data from zero to 500 feet, detailing different rules in certain parts of the world and in individual cities and towns. This information could be provided both before and during flight, delivering live information on where it is safe to fly. The project is all about “showing manufacturers and regulators what this market can do”, Bregman says.

Verifly founder Jay Bregman speaking at WIRED 2014 in October last year

Michael Newington Gray

The need for order is becoming increasingly acute. London’s Heathrow airport has reported several near-misses after drones flew too close to its runways, and earlier this week Manchester airport diverted some flights to Liverpool after sightings of a drone nearby.

Bregman believes the drone market has become “a victim of itself”, with rapid expansion and innovation creating havoc. The technology and aviation industries appear to agree that something needs to be done. Early investors in Verifly include Declan Ryan, son of late Ryanair founder Tony Ryan, Virgin Mobile US founder Amol Sarva and Facebook’s New York site director Serkan Piantino.

The company currently employs eight people, with four of them based in its Dublin headquarters. Employees include former Hailo staffers, ex-Verisign executives Michael Baum and Greg Smirin and Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s former head of public policy.

Bregman believes that Europe can be a leader in drone regulation and is maybe two years ahead of the US, hence Verifly setting up in Dublin. Discussions with regulators — including the Irish Aviation Authority, UK Civil Aviation Authority, the Metropolitan Police and New York City Council — have been encouraging, according to Bregman. Trials using Verifly’s system are expected to start later this year in Ireland, the UK and the US.

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21 April 2015 | 1:21 pm – Source: wired.co.uk


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