A recent test at a Finland airport showed the continuing effectiveness of unmanned traffic management solutions.
In May, Spanish company CarnardDrones partnered with aerial regulatory agency ANS Finland to perform six 40-minute inspection flights coordinated via a UTM system designed by Belgian software firm Unifly.
The program allowed the Finnish government to trial both a new drone inspection system for airport infrastructure, but also a comprehensive traffic management system that will safely integrate drones and manned aircraft within the same airspace domain.
“There is definitely a demand for such new-age operating forms in the near future. We are facing a rapidly changing environment where we expect to see more and more drone operations near and inside [the air-traffic] environment,” ANS Finland CCO/CMO Pasi Nikama said.
“We must remember that there are still many steps to be taking [sic] before all new solutions and working methods are in full-scale operational use,” Nikama added.
CarnardDrones UAVs inspected the precision approach path indicator (PAPI) system at the Pori Airport. PAPI refers to the visual guidance system that assists pilots in maintaining proper course approach.
“It was truly amazing. We were doing something for the first time in history and all the operation [sic] was performed as a ballet. Fast, safe and coordinated,” said Rafael Aguado, CanardDrones COO.
Using the Unifly software solution, air traffic control enjoyed full situational of awareness of all drone flights in the demonstration and handled them safely side-by-side with manned aviation.
“We worked alongside for 13 hours and were still able to create very fast interventions in a completely new way,” said Ronni Winkler Østergaard, Unifly Regional Manager, Scandinavia and Baltics.
“I see this as a historical moment for unmanned aviation and I am proud that our solution provided full situational of awareness to the air traffic controller in the tower. As we saw during the demonstration, the air traffic controller was able to confidently operate both manned and unmanned aviation in a flexible, efficient and safe manner,” he added.
Governments across the world are scrambling to deploy workable UTM systems within national airspace.
Last year, UN agency International Civil Aviation Organization released a proposal request about UTM during the AUVSI Xponential 2017 conference.
In 2016, NASA demonstrated its own UTM platform, deploying 24 drones at six FAA test sites simultaneously. NASA said the test allowed operators at the sites to “interact with the UTM research platform at geographically diverse locations, using various aircraft and different software clients to test rural, within line-of-sight UAS operations so that NASA, in collaboration with the FAA, can obtain information to further refine and develop the research.”
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