Mandatory drone registration and a massive national database of drone owners is already under way in the U.S. But simply knowing who owns what won’t stop unmanned aerial vehicles from collisions or becoming a public nuisance.

A Raleigh, North Carolina company called PrecisionHawk Inc. has raised $18 million in a Series C round of venture funding to help companies use drones for different commercial purposes in the United States, without getting into airspace where they can’t fly safely or legally.

According to PrecisionHawk CEO Bob Young, formerly the CEO of open source software firm Red Hat Inc., the startup wants to become the top provider of data and safety services for the commercial drone industry.

Founded in Canada in 2010, PrecisionHawk was known earlier in its life as the maker of the Lancaster fixed-wing drones for farmers. However, PrecisionHawk’s CEO Bob Young said, “Building and selling planes will arguably be the smallest part of our business. Our biggest opportunity and the faster growing part of our business is the platform we built for aerial data services.”

PrecisionHawk’s LATAS or Low Altitude Traffic and Airspace Safety system, lets drone operators basically get clearance to fly, track and verify their own flight operations and report their flight paths back to the FAA without a lot of fuss.

The shift from delivering hardware to creating software is known as a pivot in Silicon Valley speak. PrecisionHawk CEO Bob Young built RedHat by packaging OpenSource Linux code generated by thousands of coders around the world, into something that corporate IT buyers could deal with.
Now with investors like Verizon Ventures and USAA, he is using the company’s involvement in the FAA’s Pathfinder initiative to try and tame the skies. Lightning rarely strikes twice in the Valley, but if it does LATAS will be an important step toward BVLOS and integration with the NAS.

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