Much has been made about the need for an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system if we are to explore the potential of drone technology. The concept covers a range of capabilities that together could further integrate drones into the national airspace.
Among them are the ability to identify drones remotely, the ability to provide that information in real-time to other aircraft in the area and local authorities, and a system that can somehow determine the right of way and flight priority of manned and unmanned operations in a timely manner. If drones are to work autonomously and beyond line of site in crowded airspace and urban skies, these are the minimum features a successful UTM needs to have.
DJI Supports UK UTM Trial
This week drone manufacturer DJI demoed their AeroScope technology – used for remotely identifying drones and their pilots – as part of Operation Zenith, a full-scale UTM test at Manchester Airport, England.
AeroScope provides situational awareness to the relevant authorities, something that’s particularly useful in controlled airspace – such as that above and around airports – giving air traffic controllers and police the ability to monitor and apprehend unauthorized drone pilots flying where they shouldn’t.
Operation Zenith was led by aviation technology company Altitude Angel, alongside Manchester Airport and air traffic control provider NATS. There were also government, industry and academic participants, including DJI.
Altitude Angel’s GuardianUTM platform was deployed across 8 separate scenarios. The system gathers data from a range of sources to provide full drone UTM services alongside traditional air traffic management. It can be integrated with DJI’s AeroScope data to provide further data of drone operations, including telemetry and registration data.
“DJI is committed to innovating new technology to help ensure drones remain a safe and beneficial addition to the airspace. That commitment is clear with DJI’s AeroScope system, and we are excited to see how AeroScope’s capabilities can support a robust UTM platform,” said Christian Struwe, DJI Head of Public Policy EMEA.
“Altitude Angel’s vision of a common platform for a wide range of drone and traditional aircraft operations is an exciting step forward, and we are pleased to work with other Operation Zenith partners to bring this vision to life. This shows the way forward for UTM and the EU-wide U-space initiative.”
AeroScope came under criticism last year from Department 13, a counter-UAS company developing systems to prevent incursions from unauthorized drones. But the situational awareness provided by DJI’s product has been adopted by airports, major public arenas and large public gatherings around the world.
AeroScope receives signals directly from drones using their existing communications protocols, making it easier to implement than techniques that would involve devising new transmitters and preferable to placing extra identification burdens upon pilots.
“Today’s test shows that DJI’s AeroScope can be a valuable part of a UTM system by monitoring and tracking airborne drones around sensitive locations, reliably and rapidly feeding that information to an integrated airspace manager, and enabling a flexible model that adapts instantly to new information about aerial operations,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs.
“DJI is proud to contribute to this broad-based effort to find smart solutions for opening up controlled airspace to the benefits of drones.”