UAS Traffic Management (UTM) is a very popular term used these days by everyone and everywhere
related to UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) also commonly referred as Drones. By the definition of the
words of UTM,
it is a service catering to the needs of traffic management of drones in very low altitude
but evolved into a list of service functions mainly including the following services.
Registration and Identification
Flight Planning and Approval
Tracking and Surveillance
Operations Support Services
1.Registration and Identification Services
Registration and Identification service of UTM Syst
em enables pilots, operators and drone owners to
register and uniquely identify the drone and operator across the flow of operations. It can also provide
traceability for regulatory and legal compliances.
Through this registration, authentication and appro
process, it indirectly limits the possibility of rogue drones being in operation. Depending up on how
individual UTM implantation systems are created, the Identification service can enable remote
identification of drones using hardware and software methods.
In India, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has implemented a system called DigitalSky using
which drone owners can register their drones and obtain a Unique Identification Number (UIN).
2.Flight Planning and Approval Service
DGCA in India, and many countries in world have legalized the drone operations and there are more countries that are following the suit. With this legalization, there is no more “free flying”.
All drone flights must be planned, and approved by concerned agency prior to take off. India DGCA coined it as NPNT (No Permission No Takeoff). A flight plan is an “area of airspace” with in which
drone operator plans to operate. Depending on the country airspace regulations, restrictions, controlled airspaces, special use airspaces, eco-sensitive zones etc., the planned “area of airspace” must
not be of these restricted spaces. A UTM “Flight Planning” service may offer a comprehensive airspace and restrictions context based rich graphical user interfaces, using which operators can create a
“flight plan” that can be compliant with country’s regulations and rules. The flight plan may also contain the drone identification information, pilot or operator identification information there by
enabling the traceability and accountability.
A UTM “Flight Plan Approval” service will enable user to submit the created flight plan to concerned approving agency and obtain the approvals electronically. With this intelligent and feature rich
Flight Planning and Approval Service of a UTM, pilots and operators can focus on their operational task at hand, and still be compliant with regulations with minimal effort. One can also expect that
by following the approval process, all drone flight operations are expected be all flights legal and hence no rogue drone operations.
In India, Airport Authority of India (AAI) plans to utilize DigitalSky platform for approval process. In USA, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and
Notification Capability) and similarly U-Space project taking place in European countries.
3.Tracking and Surveillance Service
Traffic and Surveillance service of a UTM will enable identification and remote tracking of drone, its flight plan progress, along with other airspace traffic situational awareness. Tracking service is
the core component of any UTM system. This Tracking service allows users to visualize their planned Flight Plan along with their actual track, note deviations, stay compliant while in-flight. A UTM service
may also offer Detect and Avoid (DAA) notifications to pilot or operator, allowing user to take timely corrective actions. The same data may also be communicated to other concerned stakeholders like other
UTM service providers, Air Traffic Control (ATC/ATM) units etc. When multiple UTMs are in play, a UTM solution provider may share this tracking information with other UTM solution providers and concerned
Government Agencies. This type of data sharing across multiple players demands a standardization of interoperability services which we will discuss in a later article. UTM Tracking Service can also track
and report telemetry, drone health status and live video feed to operator. Along with traffic, UTM Surveillance service will provide topography (terrain and building elevation awareness in 2D and 3D formats)
for better situational awareness, population and live road traffic or few other that a UTM Surveillance service may include.
Another added benefit of Tracking and Surveillance service is that through this tracking, once can identify approved flight operations and anything else can potentially be categorized as rouge drone operations.
4.Airspace Management Service
Airspace Management Service is another key feature of a UTM system that is enabled by combination of Flight Planning, Approval, and Tracking services. This service enables the regulatory and airspace management
stakeholders to ensure safe, secure and efficient use of low altitude airspace, by managing real-time status and applying country specific airspace regulations. Through this service, low altitude airspace in-flight
operations can be managed in real time and adjusted according to the dynamic rulesets or scenarios that may arise on the fly. For example, adjusting (also referred as “de-conflict”) an in-flight drone operation
approved flight plan due to an emergency medical evacuation helicopter or a fire accident response team in operation conflicting the drone operation area that is already in-flight, all happening in real time.
A centralized or coordinated airspace management service can offer valuable insights into airspace utilization, demand and capacity evaluation and infrastructure planning.
5.Operations Support Service
As mentioned earlier in this article, UTM systems have evolved to be more than just a traffic management system, they are seemingly solving drone applications and use cases. In this context, the Operations support
service can be looked into two categories, Pilot or Operator supporting services and Enterprise Application oriented services.
Pilot or Operator supporting services directly support the pilot or operator in carrying out their drone operation. This may include services catering pre-flight check for necessary approvals, weather conditions and
any other applicable local temporary constraints. After takeoff, through the tracking and surveillance services, operator will have real time tracking and situational awareness enabling the operator to carry out safer
flight operation to landing. As part of this Operation support service, a UTM may offer several other features including Alerts, Advisories, Conflict Detection, Avoidance Guidance, Deconflict, Terrain and Obstacle
Detection and Avoid Alerts and may other depending up on individual UTM implementation.
Enterprise Oriented Services of a UTM will depend on which enterprise use cases the UTM implementation supports. But in a more likely scenario, an Enterprise UTM Operation Service may include features supporting drone
fleet management, automatic route or flight planning depending on work order, sequencing of available drone operations, fleet demand and capacity management etc. Enterprise Oriented Services are more specific to an
individual UTM implementation; hence we will not go into details.
In our next article, we will look at why UTM system a key stakeholder in ensuring safer drone operations in low altitude airspace.
Avianco Technologies Pvt. Ltd. (www.avianco.in) is an Aerospace and Aviation technology consulting and product company based in
Bengaluru, India. Avianco offers Cloud-based UAV Traffic Management (UTM) platform and drone operations software solutions,
enabling safer drone operations in the sky. For any queries, contact email@example.com