The new government funded report by Connected Places Catapult, points the way to shared airspace between personal transport, drones and traditional aircraft.
The report, which is a result of a year-long Department for Transport sponsored project, lays the groundwork for an Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management (UTM) System to allow commercial drone usage in the UK alongside traditional manned aircraft.
The project sees Connected Places Catapult working alongside NATS, Altitude Angel, ANRA Technologies, Cranfield University, the Satellite Applications Catapult and Thales UK.
It includes the architecture for an open access UTM system and scenarios for important areas such as managing permissions to fly drones in restricted airspace and multiple drone operations in uncontrolled airspace.
The report envisions a system where drone operators would submit a flight plan via an app or website to a computer system that would authorise or deny clearance.
The system would also be able to help clear the skies in the case of an emergency or make way for an air ambulance.
There is a huge global opportunity for countries who can successfully accommodate commercial drone operations which can fly “beyond line of sight” of the user alongside other aircraft.
As drone technology develops in areas such as automation, and operators become more numerous and sophisticated, new opportunities are emerging in areas such as infrastructure inspection, drone deliveries, agriculture and even personal transport.
It is thought the sector could be worth £127bn globally.
Preparation have already begun on the next phase of the project. The CPC, along with Altitude Angel ANRA Technologies, GE Aviation and AiRXOS, NATS, Snowflake Software, and Thales will run a series of technical workshops in order to mature the development of the Open-Access UTM framework to enable demonstrations of the future operational use of UTM.
The CPC has called for industry-wide collaboration to pull the necessary elements together to enable drones to operate commercially in the UK alongside all other aircraft – especially given Europe and the US have already made progress in this area.
Mark Westwood, Chief Technology Officer, Connected Places Catapult explained:
“As the technology matures, twin pressures of increasingly widespread drone usage independent of a nationally agreed framework, and a strong desire within the industry to investigate the art of the possible, are driving an urgent need for a coordinated approach across stakeholders in government, businesses and regulators.
“We need to make sure the UK is ready to accommodate this quickly emerging industry and UTM is recognised as a vital component to facilitate the safe and efficient integration of unmanned vehicles into the airspace.
“We’re hoping actors from across multiple sectors will engage with our research and future aspects of the project to get the job done so the UK drone industry can flourish.”
Image: Source; Connected Places Catapult