The Future of Navigation Systems?

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Drones offer the possibility of reaching the world’s less accessible corners. “What3words” makes mapping, inspecting and delivering to those corners easier by giving them a user-friendly address.

Comprising a global grid of 3-meter-square sections and an app that gives users each section’s simple-to-use moniker, what3words technology enables anyone with a cell phone to easily determine and share their address or the address of a meeting spot—even if that spot is somewhere on the beach or in the middle of a field. The app does not require street names or landmarks to guide users to a location—making it simple for drone-based service providers to find an offshore oilrig due for inspection or map a disaster zone where every familiar feature has been erased.

“what3words is an innovative way for people and operators to specify where in the world they need to send the drone,” said John Perry, the founder and CEO of Altavian, a drone manufacturer that is partnering with what3words. “So it specifies the location using three distinct words, which can be used in both English and other local languages. It’s very useful for being able to, for example, send a drone to a particular waypoint without having to use the digits of latitude and longitude, which are prone to error.”

The advantages of being able to give a location in three easily understood words rather than a string of numbers is clear to anyone who has had to painstakingly repeat a phone number over a bad connection.

According to, the London-based firm has divided the world into a grid of 57 trillion squares, assigning each space a unique address made up of three words. The words, written collectively with periods in between, are selected to be familiar, easy to understand and unlikely to be confused (unlike the words piece and peace). The address token.ranch.rushed, for example, indicates the center of the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.

The app can guide users from their current location to a new destination with both a map and verbal information. Moreover the 3 x 3 meter spaces are small enough to be especially helpful—showing where the front door is, for example, as opposed to just the location of a building.

A user-friendly address with that level of accuracy may be particularly helpful to drone delivery firms. Many delivery companies are currently focused on bringing small, high-value packages like medicine to isolated areas where recipients may not have a precise or permanent address or be able to give their GPS coordinates.

Clare Jones, who manages what3words’ global partnerships explained: “ It’s simple to communicate or to enter on a checkout page. Even if you think about making on-demand deliveries in other areas, like the middle of the park, a three-word address works everywhere.”