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Airspace Link’s drone tracking platform brings government customers together before going global – TechCrunch

Detroit-based Airspace Link has positioned itself as an increasingly important infrastructure provider in the burgeoning drone services space, enabling operators to quickly gain local and federal approval. With $23 million in new support, the company now plans to expand its platform to other countries looking to get their drone industries off the ground.

The company’s core offering is an online service that helps anyone working with drones obtain FAA flight clearance, showing that the necessary safety protocols are in place. This process, like any form of bureaucracy, is particularly difficult for startups and individuals to manage, and even large companies with compliance teams would like it to be easier.

“The drone industry beyond the line of sight, things like food delivery, has been held back by this,” CEO Michael Healander said. “We all know drones can do these things, but the integration into the national infrastructure isn’t there. Operators build their own systems to prove they have radar and surveillance systems, to calculate the likelihood of crashing into people, critical infrastructure… you need to file a safety case with the FAA.

Airspace Link partially automates this process, tracking ground infrastructure such as radar coverage, other notable flights and assets in the area, and more.

“Our goal is to tell the operator, ‘There’s a duster coming to your area, so pull over, and here’s a place to land,'” Healander said. But unlike other companies marketing their services in the form of software for drone pilots, Airspace Link positions itself as an infrastructure provider at the national and local level.

“Municipalities white label the Airspace Link platform and say, ‘It’s Michigan’s system.’ You don’t prove your safety record to the FAA there — the state provides that service,” a- “For a fee, of course, but it’s a convenience fee, which doesn’t charge for the use of airspace — if you want to do your own paperwork, you can.” Financier Bill Johnson thinks local governments are looking for a way to turn this from a budget item into a revenue generator.

“Similar to how roads are used – we facilitate economic activity in this region, we facilitate partners and technological progress. Everyone should benefit from this advancement in the ecosystem,” he said .

This will likely only increase as FAA regulations continue to restrict drone operations, particularly a mandate starting in September (with fines starting a year later) that all drones broadcast their location. It’s something that promises a lot of inflows for service providers in the industry, and it’s partly why the company is raising funds.

Airspace Link CEO Michael Healander and CFO Bill Johnson.

“The reason we’re stepping on the accelerator is that over the next four years it’s going to be a bit of a land grab. And we try to do it before people understand How? ‘Or’ What we do,” Healander said. That is, building itself into the government pipeline as infrastructure rather than selling to individuals and businesses.

“We’re going to put gas in a few areas of expansion here in the United States, but global expansion is the main reason we’ve pulled capital up. Several countries want things like this and drone companies are also going global,” he continued.

As an example, he suggested the United Arab Emirates, where after years of lax drone regulations, the country suddenly banned all drone operations a few months ago pending new policies. Emulating the FAA (which has overseen most drone research and commerce) and companies like Airspace Link is the easiest and fastest route for these nations, which, like any state or city, want to explore the possibilities UAV services.

Airspace Link is partnering with Thales, a global airspace monitoring company, and ESRI, the location data giant, to ensure they can deploy a product in places like Dubai, which despite demand they represent, are not simple to adapt and localize a product to.

Round B of $23.1 million was led by Avanta Ventures, the VC arm of CSAA Insurance Group — representing another category with an interest in cutting red tape and quantifying risk. Ultimately, something like Airspace Link could be a contributor or a requirement for insurance policies. The round also included investments from Morningside, Caprock, Altos Ventures, Indicator Ventures, 2048 Ventures, Detroit Venture Partners and Thales Group.

The company is hiring rapidly, nearly 50 employees now, and plans to grow even faster as it pursues the next phase of its ambitions. “If we’re going to go global, we’re going to have to build a global team,” Healander said.