Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM), a comprehensive system for managing and monitoring drone flights beyond visual line of sight (BVLS), is something of a regulatory Wild West show here in the states with a number of technologies and players vying to be part of the eventual solution. One of those players is AirMap. In what may prove to be an excellent test case for a broader deployment, AirMap is working with Airways New Zealand to deploy a UTM system that enables safe and compliant drone flights for a three-month trial in the Canterbury and Queenstown regions of New Zealand.
Drone flights in New Zealand, like everywhere else, are growing at a rapid rate. Over the past three years, weekly recorded drone flights in the country’s controlled airspace have increased 20-fold.
In a release, AirMap writes:
The Airways-AirMap trial brings digital authorization capabilities first deployed in the U.S. for the LAANC program to New Zealand. Using AirMap’s free iOS and Android apps, drone operators can request digital airspace and public land owner approvals required by New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority. Digital authorization is available from the Christchurch, Queenstown, and Wanaka airports and on public lands in the Christchurch City, Selwyn, and Queenstown Lakes District Councils, including parks and reserves. Commercial and recreational drone operators are invited to take part in the trial, which is currently underway and will significantly simplify and streamline the authorization process.
Airspace managers participating in the trial are using the AirMap airspace management dashboard to provide digital flight authorizations and share real-time updates about the location of events, community gatherings, emergencies, and other areas to avoid. This information is delivered immediately to the AirMap app to enable safer flights and more comprehensive situational awareness.
Airways New Zealand is the key enabler of the region’s aviation system and a leading provider of air traffic management services worldwide, serving more than 65 countries and managing more than 1 million air traffic movements each year. “The trial is an important step in investigating how Airways could develop a nationwide UTM system that safely integrates UAVs into New Zealand’s wider air traffic control network,” said Airways Chief Executive Graeme Sumner. “There is potential for New Zealand to become a test-bed for the UAV industry through the implementation of a system that supports growth and development in a safe manner.”
“We’re very excited to help New Zealand’s drone pilots more easily and safely access the airspace,” said Ben Marcus, AirMap CEO. “With the world watching, Airways and AirMap are demonstrating how UTM technologies can safely open the skies to high-scale drone operations, today.”