Drone Brain Makers Want To Create The DOS Of Flying Robots

Cloud compatibility in the actual clouds.

Still From An Airware Video

The idea is that the same red autopilot box works with all sorts of drone bodies.

Drones soon may be bound together by a common code. Airware, a commercial drone software company with MIT roots, hopes to unify drones in a shared code architecture. Airware already makes an autopilot, but that’s just the first step to creating a drone operating system, allowing hardware from different manufacturers to communicate with one another.

It’s an idea that hearkens back to the earliest days of Silicon Valley: splitting the hardware from the software. In theory, it means that a drone user can add a camera from one company to the body of a drone from another with a filming program from a third -- and have it all work out. In broader terms, it changes drones from limited products built for a specific task to much more versatile tools. An ecosystem of abilities rather than a single organism.

Airware founder Jonathan Downey frames it thus:

“We’re doing the same thing for the drone space,” Downey says. “There are 600 companies building differing versions of drone hardware. We think they need the Intel processor of the drones, if you will, and that operating system-level software component, too — like the DOS for drones.”

In 2013, Google invested almost $11 million in Airware. The company's operating systems are light and cloud-storage friendly, which makes them a potentially great fit for Google's drone delivery efforts.