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Boeing blockchain AI drone venture approved by FAA


U.S.-based SkyGrid, a joint venture between Boeing and SparkCognition, announced it has clearance by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for drone flight information and approvals.

The technical term is a Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) service for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

The collaboration between SparkCognition and Boeing was first announced just one year ago. SkyGrid is now one of the 21 approved UAS Service Suppliers of LAANC. The firm is trying to develop systems for ‘aerial mobility’ for autonomous cargo and passenger air vehicles. It is using AI and blockchain for dynamic air traffic monitoring and automating airspace approvals. Essentially, it’s developing the means to manage the airspace for commercial activities such as cargo delivery. Blockchain will be used to store flight and unmanned air vehicle data.

LAANC is a communication system between the drone pilots and the FAA, which provides automated approval for airspace authorization. In simpler terms, it gives visibility into where and when drones are operating to the FAA and air traffic professionals.

“By offering scalable and robust capabilities — from flight planning to autonomous cybersecurity — in a single, integrated framework, SkyGrid will make large-scale drone applications more practical and accessible,” said Amir Husain, CEO of SkyGrid.

With the LAANC approval, SkyGrid now enables its customers to apply for flight approvals through its platform. Currently, the integration provides clearance for both commercial and recreational LAANC functionality.

“Our goal is to collaborate across the globe as we develop this platform to safely enable the integration of autonomous cargo and passenger air vehicles in the global airspace,” said Steve Nordlund, VP and general manager of Boeing NeXt and a SkyGrid board member.

Since its inception in 2013, SkyGrid partner SparkCognition has raised $175 million in funding, including $100 million in October, according to Reuters. It is an AI company and is developing solutions for aviation, cybersecurity, financial services, manufacturing, and oil and gas, among others.

The joint venture is in good company using blockchain for air traffic data. NASA published a research paper outlining a prototype for sharing flight information of crewed aircraft.