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Microsoft’s Windows operating system had a vital role in turning the personal computer into a ubiquitous technology. Jonathan Downey hopes his company Airware will play a similar part in the development of commercial drones.

The startup today launched a control system for drone makers to bundle with their small aircraft. It is intended to speed up the development of drone hardware and services that rely on drones, since it would free manufacturers or their customers from having to develop their own autopilots or flight planning software. Other companies will be able to build additional software to run on top of Airware’s system, adding features such as data collection options for a particular industry.

“For drones to be used for all the potential use cases, there needs to be a common platform,” says Downey. “This is the operating system for drones.” The craft are already in limited use in industries such as agriculture, mining, and moviemaking, and being tested for wilder ideas such as package or vaccine delivery. But commercial drones are still far from a fully established industry.

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