In 2015 my friend Nehal Kanetkar brought me in on his idea, an automated technology to track his flights as a student pilot working towards his Commercial Pilots License. The problem was simple: why manually record the time you takeoff and land when your iPhone has a GPS and is tracking your every move anyway? The initial version was basic, very basic. A clunky looking iPhone app attempted to discern when the user was flying and sent back basic flight data to a poorly written python server which stored the information in a .CSV file on the server.

Since 2015 we have made revisions, a lot of revisions. We have released an app on the apple store, updated the flight detection logic using concepts from Signal Detection Theory and AI, improved the server to support real-time display of airplane position (Contingent on sufficient LTE coverage), and tracked many of our own flights in the process. To improve the look and feel, we called on our friend Meghan Yabsley to revamp the interface and make the improve the usability of the app.

Through the process I have learned a lot about software development, database design and app deployment. Most importantly, the project created a set of challenging and productive tasks to work through beyond the responsibilities of my 9-5 job. Professional development isn’t constrained to the workday, and this project has proven to me the value of working on independent passion projects. Touchdown won’t last forever; but it’s been a blast to develop a useful product with such a talented team. I can only hope that this project continues to grow, and that I can continue to work with such talented peers.