This is a project we created during MHacks 9, a 36-hour hackathon at the University of Michigan. We are four high school students from Toronto, Canada. We won C2's Best Hack for Air Traffic Control. Our hack provided a system that visualizes regional drone activities and indicates regulations to regulate UAV traffics in urban areas.

Inspiration & Market Research

We were so excited for MHacks and we decided to go for one of the sponsor prizes. We checked out the Devpost and we soon found the 's Best Hack for Air Traffic Control really interesting. C² asks us to create some innovative solutions to provide people with an immersive, virtual, experience of air traffic control.

We researched the current problems in air traffic control system. Airport traffic control has become really mature and has been developed for the last 100 years. However, there is no such system for commercial drone (UAV) fleets control. Unregulated drone traffics had caused a lot of a trouble, such as harming plane and other UAVs. A drone regulation system is highly related to everyone because of the popularity of commercial drones, the lack of understanding of FAA UAV regulations, and the threat of drones to our traffic system.

We did some research, we talked to professionals from AIRMAP, DJI, , and NSA LTS. We asked them about the current regulation systems that are being developed and ask them to identify some difficulties they found.

From AirMap

We are developing a system that informs the public about drone regulations and cooperating with drone manufacturers to implement precise geofencing.

From DJI China

We are developing a management system for enterprises to organize their drone fleets. However, there is not a system for different enterprises fleets to communicate with each other.

From C² Technologies

There are rising demands for the public to learn about operating their drones legally.

From NSA LTS (National Security Agency Laboratory for Telecommunications Sciences)

Unregulated drones are huge threats to national and individual's security. NSA would like to have a system to trace drones and drone fleets.

Our solution

  • Maps regional drone activities in urban areas in 3D
  • Generate algorithms for each drone to prevent collision with buildings and other drones with maximum efficiency.
  • Highlight your drone activity, and trace your drone/drone fleets information in real-time.
  • Labels FAA regulations zone for users, let them understand the area they could use.
  • Send messages and calls to report and alert the airport/control tower of invading or entering drones

Techinical Procedure

Front End

We use three.js for 3D animation. We designed a city with one park, one government agency, one airport, and lots of different buildings. We used Bootstrap for the control panel design, and Jquery and Ajax for user interactions.

Back End

We use spark web framework for Java with Jetty web socket to communicate with the front end. The backend generates the city map layout and provides situational awareness for the drones. We also used Twilio to alert and inform situations to our users directly. We host our services on Amazon Web Services under a .tech domain.

Project Management

Here are the roles of our team members:

  • Callum Moseley - 3D Animation Development, FrontEnd & BackEnd Development, Server Deployment
  • Mark Zhang - BackEnd Development, Terrain Modelling, Server Deployment
  • Robbie Zhuang - BackEnd Development, Terrain Modelling, Documentation
  • Simon Guo - Project Management, FrontEnd & BackEnd development, Server Deployment, Documentation

After the hackathon has started, we spent about an hour discussing our idea and plan our project. We used Agile Project management system; we split the workload and our product into different phases, to ensure that we have some kind of prototype working every several hours. We set timelines for each phase to ensure our progress and reduce risks. We put sticky notes on a whiteboard (thanks NSA for providing those awesome sticky notes!) and organized them by different phases.


Challenges we ran into

  • We were trying to deploy AIRMAP's API. Their API contains all the accurate FAA regulation area based on real-life locations. However, our API request is not being approved.

Solution: We decide to do research on all those regulations and recreate air zones regulations based on those information.

  • We also had difficulty finding light weight accurate 3D geo-mapping of a real city. They are either not web-compatible or too slow to load.

Solution: We decide to map a mock city map by us and generate a 3D model of a city.

Why it matters

  • Remotely informs the users (individual, commercial user, and government agency) about regional drone activities in an interactive way. Users can also enter the FPV of their own drones. Raise air traffic publicity and awareness for the general public.
  • Better security control: Regulate both individual and commercial drones, provide and Traceable drone activities as well as warning/reporting for airports. It also generate flight route automatically to prevent collisions. There is no such system of its kind for commercial drones or UAVs yet.
  • Reduced significant cost in drone monitoring and regulations. Our system also provides new way for drones to navigate. Drones no longer need expensive camera and sensors. All the navigation could be done by a centralized and connected system, significantly reduces cost and the weight of drones
  • Sustainable for future development and deployment. Easy to access (website). Easy to add integration to the system.

Future Development

  • We will definitely deploy AIRMAP's flight zone API for more accurate and realistic data.
  • We will connect physical drones with our system as well as airport towers.
  • We will develop a database of drones to keep records of all the activities.
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