ATM Magazine attended the recent Amsterdam Drone Week event and had the opportunity to learn about many different current areas of focus for companies in the UTM/UAM space. There will be a series of features covering the highlights of these discussions published during the course of this week.
We kicked off the show by catching up with Unifly. They’ve been in operation since 2015, old timers for the drone industry! They have been working with air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to support their UTM requirements, but also airports, critical infrastructure and drone operators. Geographically current customers/partners are in Europe, the Middle East and North America. Japan may quickly become an important market for them with investments during 2022 from Terra Drone and Japanese government fund JOIN. These investments come in addition to investments from DFS, and the Belgium and Flemish governments.
They are collaborating with ANSPs to integrate UTM with ATM as a pure technology provider. They will not compete with U-space service providers (USSPs). With safety as the highest priority for all involved in our airspace, it’s important to respect and understand the traditional ATM environment and work together.
This is a theme heard throughout the show. ATM should go faster to meet UTM market developments. UTM providers need to respect the years of expertise on the ATM side. It seems these markets have finally realised there’s a middle ground they need to meet in as opposed to going their own way at their own speed.
ANSPs as CISPs
Egis shared a presentation looking at Implementing U-space: challenges and opportunities for air navigation service providers. A common information service provider (CISP), according to U-space, will be in charge of sharing the common information required to enable the operation and provision of U-space services in U-space airspaces wherever it has been designated. The CISP will be a single and reliable source of all common information.
The question is whether or not an ANSP can do this if they aren’t managing all of the traffic in their airspace? On the other hand, who is more capable of doing this? Operations procedures between different organisations are not fully defined at this point. There can be involvement from many different constituencies – ANSPs, CAAs, CISPs. USSPs, local authorities, meteorological information providers and the general public. Not all of these organisations understand the requirements and maybe some don’t need to….yet.
There needs to be an IT system for sharing of information with increased automation and security. One question that emerges is if this functionality should be considered ‘critical infrastructure’? Critical infrastructure brings with it the need for a certain level of security.
The recommendation in this session was for ANSPs to start with a blank slate and consider what needs to be answered and why, when deciding their way forward.
Another company looking at the intersection between ATM and UTM is Moving Dot. Their goal is to make ATM policy more operational with a CONOPS for airspace design that considers everything prior to the role of the pilot. They are currently working with ANSPs such as LVNL, governments, ministries of transport and airports such as Schiphol.
With current UTM BVLOS design and implementation projects underway they are defining the architecture for how to go forward by getting ATM and UTM to speak the same language. The biggest challenge they are seeing is the need for entrepreneurship within the existing industry. ANSPs think UTM is pure traffic handling. They need to understand this customer better. This is a new market they need to learn from. Airports are curious but focused on sustainability currently. This is likely a future topic for them.
Wing shared some thoughts about scaling drone delivery and community acceptance. When they enter a new market, the ramp up is about 2-3 months before delivery begins. They begin by sharing the concept with consumers. They show the speed of delivery, the light weight of the drone and the low level of noise to try and dissuade any concerns about it falling out of the sky and causing damage. It hovers at about 7 metres high and lowers the delivery with a cable that unhooks automatically and returns to the drone. Their results show that about 80% of consumers are interested in the idea of home drone delivery.
2023 is the year for U-space to be enabled, so that 2024 can allow for drone flying at scale in Europe. There needs to be a drone delivery network in the future vs the point-to-point scenarios today. Wing already works with remoteID and ADS-B functionality on their drones, which will help to move towards this goal.
The company provides a module software based on cloud-based SaaS with an open architecture. This is an appealing option for drone operations companies, but I believe ANSPs will struggle to accept a cloud-based solution and prefer to have it locally deployed in a network they can manage. This is also a possible deployment scenario.
Today their focus is drones, with an eye to Urban Air Mobility in the future. They’ve also just announced they are a member of the Inmarsat Velaris ecosystem to expand their opportunities geographically beyond Singapore.
Stay tuned for more updates from the show!