Two European aviation players are teaming up to ensure drones fly safely near airports.
Belgian company Unifly and Danish start-up Integra Aviation Academy announced a partnership last week at the World ATM Congress in Madrid to launch a new Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system that can detect, monitor and document drone flights near key infrastructure locations (especially airports) on a national scale.
The term UTM describes a broad range of concepts and solutions designed to facilitate air-traffic management among drones and manned aircraft in an effort to avoid potential crashes or other dangers.
Although drone/manned aircraft collisions are rare – despite many false reports – rogue UAVs flying in the wrong place at the wrong time have led to isolated incidents, including a collision between a DJI Phantom 4 and an Army UH-60 helicopter in September.
Integra and Unifly will collaborate with MyDefence and Reseiwe to create a system capable of communicating with both manned and unmanned pilots, alerting them of any emergent threats. The system will oversee the entire workflow from permitting to perimeter creation to pervasive monitoring.
“Airports and their surroundings are a highly specific and vulnerable area where it is vital for manned and unmanned aviation to coexist safely,” Unifly CEO Mark Kegelaers said in a press release. “A mature system is needed that monitors and communicates in real time so all stakeholders are aware of the situation at all times.”
Governments across the world are scrambling to deploy workable UTM systems within national airspace.
In June, UN agency International Civil Aviation Organization released a proposal request about UTM during the AUVSI Xponential 2017 conference.
In 2016, NASA demonstrated its own UTM platform, deploying 24 drones at six FAA test sites simultaneously. NASA said the test allowed operators at the sites to “interact with the UTM research platform at geographically diverse locations, using various aircraft and different software clients to test rural, within line-of-sight UAS operations so that NASA, in collaboration with the FAA, can obtain information to further refine and develop the research.”
More recently, a study published by Unmanned Airspace forecasts the U.S. will be left behind in UTM deployment by the UK, Singapore and Dubai, among others. “Dubai and Singapore will be the first countries to develop urban commercial drone transport systems, including passenger taxi services,” the report added.