Uplink ALPA - The Voice of Aviation

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association Newsletter. As of April 2020 Uplink ALPA is a 6-monthly publication.

Integration of conventional and UAS air traffic

Whilst we currently focus on the collision risks posed by unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or remotely piloted aerial vehicles (RPAS) – globally, we are starting to see solutions to integrate the use of UAS and RPAS with our current airspace systems.

In the future there is no doubt that there will be some form of total UAS integration. Currently we are starting to see the formation of structured UAS Traffic Management Systems (UTM) to manage UAS operating closely below or in some instances within ‘our airspace’.

UTM systems can involve a whole new low level (below say 400-500ft) airway system similar to that utilised by conventional airways traffic.

In terms of specialist ATS Routes in New Zealand, we already have dedicated helicopter PBN networks covering Northland, Taranaki and the Coromandel for instance.

There are obviously safety benefits of having structures around how this space is managed and in some instances the financial incentives involved can be immense. As something of a career cynic, I suspect that it is the latter which in the main, drives this activity. This is also unfortunately why some states are loath to place constraints on related developments, for fear of missing out on the not insignificant financial gains.

Air Navigation Services Providers (ANSP’s), such as Airways, and Safety Regulators are ‘chomping at the bit’ to link up with high tech solution providers to both set up dedicated UTM’s and also provide UAS operators an opportunity to operate more liberally in a controlled environment. We have recently seen trials carried out in the South Island by Airways and parties with a financial interest that may well be associated with the development of a national UTM system here.

There is an increase in companies promising to enable operations much closer to or within, areas which are currently ‘no-fly zones’ with the necessary caveats to enable this. These programs provide sufficient information to know where conventional aircraft operations are taking place, to avoid penetrating these areas and to safely operate adjacent to them. Such systems normally require having operator details recorded and entered into a formal tracking and notification system.

As I alluded to at the beginning of this article - there is a lot going on here and there are some very big players in the market: NASA, Lockheed Martin, Google and Amazon are some of the headline names. For more information on what some of the main players in this market are doing – check out the following links.

NASA UTM – Research prototype technologies for UAS Traffic Management (UTM) systems that could develop airspace integration requirements for enabling safe, efficient low-altitude operations. View HERE.

UAS Secure Autonomous Flight Environment (U-SAFE) – Project partnership of key US government stakeholders, academia and industry partners to develop, test and certify the US’s first low altitude UAS Traffic Management system. View HERE.

UTM4UAS – A concept of operations developed by the ATM Research Institute of the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore as part of an ongoing Traffic Management for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TM-UAS) project. (Edit note – page may be slow to load). View HERE.

Airmap – Provides operators real-time airspace intelligence about their flights, including controlled airspace, temporary

flight restrictions, nearby traffic and changes in weather. View HERE.

Altitude Angel – UK company working with NATS (the UK’s ANSP) providing a full UTM for the UK. They produce a range of products, tools and databases for UAS operators, regulators, authorities and ANSPs. View HERE.

And finally, Project Wing for an operator’s perspective ... – View HERE.

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