During this year’s Amsterdam Drone Week there were opportunities to learn about many new topics related to this part of the world of aviation from different industry stakeholders. ATM Magazine highlights some of these discussions below.
Starting with the perspective from the ANSP point of view there was eNav who was exhibiting to showcase its D-Flight platform. This is a separate legal entity, but still carries eNav branding. Why the interest in this topic – drones are air traffic, it’s as simple as that. They were asked by the Italian regulator to look into a solution to ensure the same level of management of this traffic as traditional aviation and D-Flight was established with partners Leonardo and Telespazio. An unmanned traffic management (UTM) solution was developed by all three partners. This can also translate to the support of UAM, which has begun trials in conjunction with airports in Venice and Rome. This is different than many other countries to see the airports taking such an interest in UAM. The thought is that bigger airports can feed vertiport traffic to reduce city congestion. But it’s difficult to harmonise the needs between ATM and eVTOL.
Italy’s goal for UAM would be to use it to support the 2025 Jubilee and the 2026 winter Olympics. But there’s still a lot of work to do before then. ATM regulation can’t be imposed on UTM. Can there be an CONOPS that creates a different ecosystem for eVTOL? But what about autonomous flight – could be implemented if it makes sense based on risk and economics.
A panel looking at this topic included representatives from D-Flight, Ericsson Drone Mobility, KPN, GSMA, Avy and ANRA Technologies. A couple of the most interesting comments from this panel came from KPN and D-Flight. KPN shared an overview of their newly launched Drone Connect 4G/5G network which can apply priority to specific drone applications. This solves the issue where coverage is required at different levels of bandwidth for difference functions. They will provide coverage maps that provide for centimetre level detail of accuracy. They can also help with ground risk based on the density of SIM cards in any location. Based on anonymised mobile network operator data, plans for drone flights can take into consideration where there are heavily populated areas to avoid.
The question of a business model in support of different types of drone or UAM flights was answered by D-Flight with an interesting proposition for revenue generation. The concept was that of the smartphone – different users have different needs and spend different amounts of money. For example, a lot of users pay a small amount of money for basic functionality, there’s not a lot of motivation for expensive basic services. But not all use cases have the same value. If a use case is driving increased efficiency then there could be more motivation for a higher priced service. This is a model to consider where there is a basic low cost low functionality service and more higher priced even customised services.
And in summary, the view of the panel was it’s time to move beyond pilots!
Established in 2018, Airwayz is working with NLR to implement the use of SWIM for the integration of ATM/UTM through their dynamic USSP/UTM technology. They are focused on current EASA regulations to address topics such as proximity, volume and safety. There are currently two business models – working with property owners who have their own fleet or provide fleets for their clients and ANSPs who want to manage shared airspace. They have a cloud-based solution that can be deployed on either a public or private cloud.
If you suddenly have 10s of 1000s of drones flying overhead there are challenges that come into play beyond managing this traffic. What is the impact to those on the ground – noise, ground risk and public acceptance. Looking ahead, what are the key topics of importance:
- Cyber for UTM – there is an EASA outline for roles and responsibilities. But doesn’t really go into the technology
- AI can play a role – optimisation of flight planning for example. With a huge number of vehicles within a specific area at the same time, this will be needed to help with prioritisation
- Cellular for tracking and identifying vehicles – in trials this performed better than ADS-B.
One thing that is very noticeable across the three events we joined during that last month is that the UTM space is getting very crowded. There are point solution providers and those who say they provide an end to end solution. Over time, I expect a lot of change here as there will have to be some consolidation either though partnerships or survival of the fittest.