Welcome to GUTMA “Meet Our Members” interview series, where every month we feature a different member. 

This month we speak to Jon Hegranes, Kittyhawk, CEO & Founder. Thanks to Jon for taking the time to share his latest news, projects, industry insights and trends.

Introducing: Jon Hegranes, Kittyhawk, CEO & Founder

UTM is a highly compelling concept for Jon. But for him, the UTM ecosystem must evolve and provide actual benefits through a real and action focused approach, starting with sharing data, connecting systems, and busting myths.

Kittyhawk’s contribution to the UTM ecosystem is in the delivery phase of technology by putting code in production and providing UTM features. It is nearly three years since they did their first demonstrations of an open-source UTM system with AirMap and Wing and set UAS telemetry flowing through the Kittyhawk platform. Kittyhawk is also a leading UAS Service Supplier (USS) within the FAA UTM construct with their platform now providing close to half of all LAANC airspace authorizations in the US.

Jon says: “A simple mission is in place at Kittyhawk – to enable flight for our customers and partners. This started with enabling individuals and enterprises to build foundations centered around compliance, data security and insights for drone operations.” 

Today their goals are evolving to enable the next iteration of drone flights. Kittyhawk is developing solutions that overcome regulatory and technological obstacles. Overcoming these obstacles will help their clients reach the next tier of ROI for their drone programs. To achieve this, they are listening to their customers to understand what problems they are trying to solve. At the same time, Kittyhawk is gaining an understanding of the tools and capabilities their clients need to plug into Kittyhawk through a drone-agnostic approach. 

The company is increasingly working with hardware providers such as Parrot, to enable their customers to diversify and upgrade their fleets. Due to the range of technologies now available, Kittyhawk is also taking a processing-agnostic approach to help customers tie into best-of-breed mapping, AI, and machine learning capabilities to leverage these within enterprise workflows.

The current focus for the business is to provide historically disparate applications or capabilities new context and value by joining the dots together. A recent example of this was achieved by combining Kittyhawk’s patented dynamic airspace capabilities with robust automated flight planning. This resulted in Kittyhawk helping energy and utility companies fly missions they were previously unable to, due to safety concerns and technological limitations. Repeatability is key to increasing safety and value to flights. The process and programmatic operations now provide their customers with the ability to think in new ways around data capture and deployment of personnel and assets. Innovations like this will help create a real shift in the growth and development of drones.

Kittyhawk’s upcoming projects are centered around airspace management, with big releases for both B4UFLY and their new version of LAANC. B4UFLY is developing more innovative ways to crowdsource airspace and operational data. Kittyhawk is also leveraging feedback from tens of thousands of LAANC authorizations to add new capabilities, create dedicated applications, features, and workflows that streamline the authorization process for airspace.

Jon said:
“For those of us who live and breathe all things drones, airspace and LAANC may seem like old news, but it’s important to remember that there are drone pilots and drone programs that will be filing their first airspace authorizations today. It is still early days for this industry. Providing foundational capabilities that add to the safety and compliance of drone pilots are activities that will benefit us all for the long-term.”

Jon envisages a focus on production-ready capabilities across all industries that are growing in sophistication around risks, rewards, and the considerations for implementing drone technology. He expects companies to demand long-term solutions that break new ground with products and services that solve real problems and enable flight at scale.

Kittyhawk is currently looking for partners that want to scale what technology is capable of today. They want to work with likeminded partners that are looking to realize the possibilities of drones now.

The parts of UTM that drive Jon are those that may not be the most exciting but will result in more flights today. He applauds those looking to leverage things like quantum computing to solve deconfliction scenarios in 2040, but for him the focus must be on addressing the current critical path for UTM. Applying a practical iterative approach for today’s UTM ecosystems is key.

For Kittyhawk the time is now. Connecting systems and sharing data on real flights and volumes today, through self-driven rules is vital for the industry.

Find out more about Jon Hegranes and Kittyhawk through LinkedIn here or visit the Kittyhawk website to learn more about the business.

Feel free to contact us at GUTMA if you have any questions for any of our interviewed members, and please do visit our blog again soon for the latest interviews! 

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