InterDrone opened today in a virtual format. This last major drone show of the year has many great sessions, including these: a panel discussion led by Eszter Kovacs of the Global UTM Association (GUTMA) Andy Thurling, Chief Technology Officer at NUAIR; Gokul Srinivasan, Technical Director at Robots Expert; and Ernest Huffman, Principal Air Transportation Planner at the North Texas Council of Governments, discussed at length what exactly is required for the successful implementation of unmanned traffic management systems (UTM).
UTM is an important part of integrating drones into airspace and provides the safety network necessary to scale drone operations in the same airspace used by manned aircraft. UTM is not a single technology or regulation, but an interconnected framework of technologies and regulations. Great strides have been made in testing technologies: but what do we need to implement UTM globally?
Remote ID, or the ability to trace drones back to an operator, is a regulation that has not yet been published in the US, although a final regulation is due by the end of the year. It is often referred to as the main part of a functioning UTM system. However, Gokul Srinivasan says Remote ID is a double-edged sword. “It’s a critical aspect of UTM,” says Srinivasan. “You have to know who [is flying] and what their intention is … it’s a great start to the future. “
According to Srinivasan, the problem distinguishes between “cooperative” and “non-cooperative” aircraft. “You never have a problem with cooperative planes,” says Srinivisan. “You always talk to them. The problem is with non-cooperative drones. I would like to see EASA and FAA combine aspects of Counter-UAS technology with remote ID. “
According to Ernest Huffman, the remote ID element is an essential part of implementing UTM. “… From the community’s point of view, it is difficult to promote the drone industry as safe if you cannot see the drones in the air. If we can share this visibility and transparency with the public, it will go a long way in alleviating public concerns. “
The effect of 5G on UTM
Srinivisan is working closely on the 5G issue for drone technology – and says this is an important piece of the puzzle.
“High Band 5G can guarantee that you will have coverage for your entire flight: high bandwidth, extremely reliable features with low latency,” says Srinivasan. “When you have that, you have less than 10 milliseconds of latency, which means the UTM system can track a drone moving at 20 meters per second. This is critical to security. “
“… The real money comes when you do BVLOS missions (out of line of sight). This is where 5G can overcome the barriers and go beyond the normal coverage that 4G can offer with a single tower by providing low-band or mid-band capabilities that offer really broad network capabilities in terms of coverage.
Now you have expanded your coverage area and high bandwidth transmission options. This guarantees that your drone is always connected to the UTM system and not only connected, but almost in real time. This is where 5G really makes a difference. “
According to Ernest Huffman, education is another element that will be critical to the implementation of UTM and the full integration of drones into the airspace.
“Workforce development has been a big problem in aviation,” says Huffman. “This piece on personnel development will also be a big piece for the drone industry.”
In addition to training a future workforce to help the drone industry grow, Huffman points out that there are still many UTM parts to be found – and then explained to communities around the world. “Our cities need to understand what infrastructure is in place, who is going to fund it, what socio-economic areas … we are still working on that,” says Huffman.
Kovacs agrees that education is something that the drone industry cannot afford to leave entirely to the government. “When we talk to the drone ecosystem about the drone ecosystem, we are in a box,” emphasizes Kovacs. “We have to go out and talk to others about drones – with a wider audience to get the message across.
It’s really important, it’s our responsibility as an industry, ”she says. “We can’t wait.”
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has authored over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For advice or writing in the drone industry, email Miriam.
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