AlarisPro software improves UAS safety for users, manufacturers

By Patrick C. Miller | April 27, 2017

Tony Pucciarella wants to bring the same level of safety to operators and manufacturers in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry that exists in manned aviation.

The former U.S. Navy pilot and his team at Maryland-based AlarisPro have developed UAS fleet management software that he believes is essential not only to helping pilots and businesses operate more safely, but also in assisting drone manufacturers to build safer products.

“What we tried to do here is scale something that’s required and very useful in the manned market,” Pucciarella explains. “We might be a little ahead of our time, but we’re here to stay and we’ve got customers.”

Over the past year, Pucciarella said he has demonstrated the software to between 200 to 300 potential customers, and almost all of them see the program’s value within the first 10 minutes. Police departments, fire departments and emergency services agencies are especially interested in AlarisPro, Pucciarella said.

“AlarisPro is a vital part of our UAS operations and safety program,” said Rod Manuel, law enforcement expert with the Cecil County Sheriff’s Department in Maryland.

A company that purchases a monthly subscription to the software manages its UAS fleet through a dashboard that provides information on each aircraft, such as whether it’s been involved in any incidents, requires preventive maintenance or has parts in need of replacement. The status of the aircraft and the pilots who fly it can be updated or changed with the point and click of a mouse.

Unlike manned aircraft, the parts that make up most drones don’t have serial numbers, but Pucciarella said the AlarisPro program can assign numbers to parts. This enables operators to track the number of hours on key parts to determine maintenance or replacement schedules.

“This is what we do differently,” he said. “We’re tracking systems at the component level. There’s other flight logging software out there, but we’re the only ones we know about that are tracking systems at the component level.”

UAS manufacturers that subscribe to AlarisPro receive “de-identified” data about their drones being operated in the field by pilots and businesses using AlarisPro. Although the companies don’t know the identities of those supplying the data, Pucciarella said that even a 10 percent sample provides valuable information that manufacturers can use to improve their UAS.

“The advantage to this is that we’re able to provide metrics back on failure items—average hours per aircraft, all its components and their average life and when they failed,” he said. “What we want them to do is use our software as part of a safety management system to make their products better.”

According to Pucciarella, manufacturers that ignore this type of information will find out that it’s not a good business plan and leads to what he calls “design, build and forget.”

“Everybody should be designing new products, but when that becomes the focus, it’s at the expense of the aircraft they just produced,” he explained. “What we’re trying to do is give them a very easy mechanism to communicate back without a lot of effort.”

The AlarisPro software enables manufacturers to monitor their products for potential problems and alert users to them about specific components.

“They can put out alerts in customer bulletins and airworthiness directives to make their customers’ experience better,” Pucciarella said.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics—which has nearly 200,000 members and 2,400 U.S. flying sites—recently signed an agreement to partner with AlaraisPro and form a working group focused on UAS safety. The organization’s members will receive a discount on a subscription to the company’s software.

“As we have embraced the new technology—or drones—the academy is eager to provide the opportunity for safe and responsible deployment of drones in the national air space,” said Bill Pritchett, AMA director of education. “AlarisPro provides a key component to that goal.”