The drone industry is at a crossroads. The technology is moving rapidly from the realm of blue sky thinking to the sky above our heads, but managing this transition safely without stifling innovation is proving challenging.At present there is no system to manage the widespread use of drones, or Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), in low-altitude airspace below 150m (500ft) where most commercial applications are expected to play out. Traditional air traffic management (ATM) approaches aren’t feasible because they rely on constant communication with human pilots and radar detection, which struggles with small drones.This has led to calls for UAS Traffic Management (UTM) solutions to deal with the safety, security and privacy issues entailed by the predicted explosion in airspace users. The term was coined by NASA, which has taken an undeniable lead in the field by creating a UTM research consortium of government agencies and major tech companies. But the idea is loosely defined and there is considerably uncertainty on what a fully-fledged UTM system would look like.
This is the introduction to an article written by Francis Schubert, chief corporate development and deputy CEO at skyguide, in May 2016. The paper expresses the personal views of the author and does not necessarily reflect the position of his employer or national authorities. The full document is available here.
The Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) sector is evolving quickly. The number of devices, commonly known as “drones”, produced and launched annually is expanding widely, and new applications are constantly being developed. Although it is to be expected that not all such applications will be successful from a business perspective, it is undisputable that these new entrants will have a major effect on the air transportation system.
It is becoming apparent that because of the numbers and the diversity of applications involved, some sort of infrastructure will be required to support the safe operation of drones in those parts of the airspace that are opening to UAS operations. That future infrastructure is coming to be known as UAS Traffic Management (UTM), based on the model under development by NASA.