When an industry changes rapidly, that disruption often needs an entrepreneur or company to step up and take a leadership role in helping others make sense of this new normal, adjust their business plans, and take the next steps forward.
For the drone industry, PlanetM Landing Zone member and startup, Airspace Link is taking on that leadership role to move the bar forward on drone package delivery and related work, helping municipalities, government agencies and others find a way to make sense of this new marketplace.
Airspace Link, based in Detroit, works directly with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), state and local government as well as the drone industry, explained Michael Healander, President and CEO of Airspace Link. Healander spoke in February to mobility industry experts and interested Detroit entrepreneurs during a Mobility Meetup at the PlanetM Landing Zone in Detroit.
Healander describes Airspace Link as an all-in-one, FAA-certified, cloud-based platform that connects all constituents involved in legally flying a drone. Working with state and local government, Airspace Link defines areas of risk, those that need special ordinances or set up event restrictions within communities. With that data, Airspace Link then builds drone airspace infrastructure.
Sounds complicated? Healander has a simpler way to think about it: “Airspace Link is building highways in the sky,” he told the Mobility Meetup audience in a conversation with Devon O'Reilly, director of entrepreneurship and Detroit engagement for the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Healander came to create Airspace Link in part because of his background in infrastructure management and geospatial government solutions. That is why he feels the company has the “right team at the right time with the right solutions,” Healander said.
In January, Airspace Link announced it had raised a $4 million seed round with investors including Indicator Ventures, Detroit Venture Partners and Invest Detroit. Healander called that significant considering his business was a PowerPoint presentation at its start and now employs 10 people.
Healander added that Airspace Link is on the cusp of graduating from the PlanetM Landing Zone and into larger Detroit digs. He noted that the Detroit community, the mobility industry in the state, and groups such as PlanetM, TechStars Detroit and Invest Detroit provided that “secret sauce” to Airspace Link’s success.
The sky literally is the limit for Airspace Link. The company estimates the total available market annually is $125 billion in drone, courier, express and parcel shipping. Moreover, there are 22 million packages delivered every day by FedEx, UPS, Amazon and 90% of those packages are under 5 pounds, making them ideal for drone delivery.
"It's a big opportunity,” Healander said, especially with the Detroit Region Aerotropolis driving investment and economic investment in Southeast Michigan.