The Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) announced today that they have deployed the Swiss U-Space flight information management system for drones, or the FIMS.
Regardless of complex terms and 3-letter acronyms, the big idea behind unmanned traffic management (UTM) is to allow air traffic management to understand what drone operators are doing – and for drone operators to be able to easily understand what’s happening in the airspace. When that happens, concerns over unintended conflicts between manned and unmanned aircraft go away: and the commercial drone industry can safely and confidently expand.
In March 2018, Swiss air navigation service provider skyguide and leading airspace intelligence provider AirMap announced their partnership to develop the first nationwide U-space system in Europe to provide the comprehensive framework required for that communication. Today, Swiss U-Space deployed the FIMS, “an aviation data exchange hub that connects skyguide’s air traffic management system to UAS Service Providers with open interfaces” says a skyguide press release. “The FIMS deployment represents a critical milestone in the development of the Swiss U-space Implementation (SUSI) program, Switzerland’s drone traffic management network infrastructure, and in global UAS Traffic Management (UTM) capabilities.”
Here’s how it works: the FIMS is a cloud-based platform that distributes airspace information, directives, and real-time air traffic information taken from skyguide’s air traffic systems to drone operators, through a network of service providers (USPs). Participating USPs can connect to the FIMS and provide the data to drone operators, and the system is designed to connect with multiple USPs – “to support an open, competitive drone economy with a marketplace of drone services,” says the release – which means that drone operators will have a choice of application for airspace intelligence.
“The Swiss U-space FIMS is a critical building block toward full UTM implementation in Switzerland,” said Klaus Meier, skyguide Chief Technology Officer. “Following the creation of SUSI, the Swiss U-space Implementation framework designed by FOCA to build an open UTM ecosystem in Switzerland, we are delighted to announce the availability of the FIMS open interfaces to connect skyguide with multiple UAS Service Providers.”
Where U-Space is Now
Like the low altitude authorization and notification capability (LAANC) currently implemented in the U.S., part of the U-space framework involves enabling drone operators to receive automated authorizations to fly in controlled airspace. “Earlier this year, skyguide and AirMap kicked off a Swiss U-space automated authorization live market trial,” explains the release. “Over 200 operators have joined the market trial and have used the Swiss U-space mobile application to plan their operations and request and receive automated authorization to fly in controlled airspace near Lugano and Geneva airports, with expansion planned in the near future to additional airports. Swiss U-space UTM dashboards provide air traffic control operators with visibility over UAS flight plans and flight activity in their airspace as well as the ability to manage authorization requests. These are just some examples of the foundational safety services made possible through U-space.”
“Switzerland’s FIMS enables multiple USPs to connect to safety-critical airspace information using open and interoperable interfaces to deliver nationwide U-space services to UAS operators,” said Ben Marcus, AirMap Co-founder and Chairman. “With this new milestone, Switzerland continues to lead the world in rolling out innovative UTM services that foster an open drone economy.”
The Swiss aviation community thinks that U-Space and the FIMS is a model other countries might want to follow. FOCA released the Swiss U-space ConOps in March 2019, as a guide to other countries. In the coming months, skyguide and AirMap will build on the ongoing market trials to move toward full U-space system deployment, currently targeted for early 2020.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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