"beststartup.co.uk" interview with
Neuron COO Niall Greenwood
Neuron is building global sensory nervous system using community networks. What does this mean?
Well, we are all familiar with the Internet of Things and these technologies are now becoming real, often enabled by Artificial Intelligence (think self-driving cars) or distributed ledgers, which are often used when multiple stakeholders need cheap, fast and secure access to shared data.
Neuron is founded by aviators; a BA Captain, a drone-collision avoidance PhD researcher and a military airspace/air traffic management specialist.
We see the critical problem of ‘drones avoiding collisions with crewed aircraft’ from the three key perspectives and have come up with a solution that allows shared, safe fight to go ahead.
We are on a mission to integrate airspace, into a rightful ‘single sky’, using ground based, community owned sensors, and an intelligent backend.
This will enable enormous potential in the commercial drone space, and is likely to ultimately change not only traffic management but every situation where ‘things need to know where each other are, think autonomy and robotics, and also where communities need access to fast, cheap and trusted data to stay safe.
Tell us about yourself?
I was always interested in the concept that critical infrastructure systems, such as the ones we use to control aircraft, are reliant on trusted data to enable automation.
This may sound like a very dry phrase, but if you think about it how do we achieve ‘next generation’ aircraft? The answer is a lot of incredible engineering, some piloted and some unpiloted platforms, but more than anything else a ‘safe sky’ for all airspace users to operate in.
The current practice of segregating the sky up into small packages, and keeping each other out of large areas of airspace is unsustainable and unscalable – trusted digitisation allows us to do better.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Get ready to be in this for the long haul; Rome wasn’t built in a day, and aerospace is a slow moving, change resistant sector. It is also extremely safe and capable, so there is a route for innovation for the most persistent and creative of companies, over the medium to long term.
What problem does your business solve?
The significant problem, for the last decade or so, that drones can’t operate safely in the same sky as crewed aircraft. This is a problem that is seriously ‘hobbling’ the commercial drone sector.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
We were really inspired by a series of insights by James, our co-founder, during his PhD research into drone collision avoidance systems.
What is your magic sauce?
We have incredible people, great insight and sheer determination, but more than all of that we have a solution that works, and is massively scalable in a massively constrained market.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
We want drones and aircraft sharing the same skies, safely, and we want wider application of our technology to multiple use cases, including weather, traffic alerts, autonomous cars and robotics.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Regulation is always a hurdle; we overcome this hurdle by sitting on all of the relevant regulatory committees, and by contributing actively to the sector’s debate.
How do people get involved/buy into your vision?
Anyone who (wants to fly)/flies a drone, or any other aircraft, needs to think how they can enable aircraft data capture (maybe an IOT sensor on your roof, paying you back its cost, and more over time) and how a Neuron plugin will give you a Trusted Airspace Picture.
By doing this, and by participating in the open-source network our skies will be safe and integrated for all airspace users, and against any ground risk from unsafe integration.