Developing, building & testing the Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) framework for drone operations opportunity

The UK Drone sector is projected to grow rapidly over the coming years, with increasingly capable technology spawning a new range of potential applications and business models.  Unlike several frequently hyped technologies, we are already realising a number of benefits from the application of drones: Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) inspections are substantially reducing costs of asset inspections in certain areas and removing people from harm’s way; their use in photography, surveys, and even search and rescue, is amplifying productivity, accuracy and coverage in each of those areas. Compared to the possible commercial and societal benefits that drones have to offer, the market today represents only the tip of the iceberg. Connected Places Catapult is therefore offering a Drone Solutions opportunity to develop this framework.

Commercial Drones; Drones in the UK Airspace; Drone Innovation

As we move towards an increasingly automated future, the potential that drones offer increases exponentially.  From the much media-hyped delivery services through to inspection of infrastructure (rail, Oil & Gas), highways and construction; the sheer breadth of use cases is remarkable.  However, for these applications to operate in a safe and routine manner in increasingly complex environments and in proximity of congested airspace, requires the integration of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM).

Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) is a system designed to enable the integration of drones into the national airspace. There are numerous opinions and models of UTM, but such a system could potentially enable ubiquitous awareness for drones or drone users of permanent and dynamic airspace restrictions, awareness of other airspace users, conflict detection and resolution between drones and other aircraft, and handle requests for permission to enter or transit through controlled airspace. It is seen as an important step in realising the full potential of drones, including routinely and safely flying ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS).

Commercial Drones; Drones in the UK Airspace; Drone Innovation

Connected Places Catapult (CPC) has led the development of the Open-Access UTM framework, in collaboration with the UK Department for Transport (DfT) and industry. A critical element in the progress of UTM will be to help gain an understanding of how the framework would work in practice, to assess trade-offs of technology, systems and procedures. The next step for the Open-Access UTM is to build key systems and conduct tests to de-risk and verify concepts and technologies.

Funded by the Department for Transport, this CPC-led project aims to develop, build and test several key features of the Open-Access UTM framework namely, the Open-UTM Service and the interactions of UTMSP with it and UTMSPs interacting with each other. This will include the development of communications interfaces and protocols necessary for a range of services to be created followed by testing and simulations leading to field-trials.

This will be a nine (9) month CR&D project to develop, build and test the Open-Access UTM framework for drone operations below 400ft. The project will include the development of the principal architectural features, communications interfaces and some of the services together with multi-stakeholder testing and simulations leading to field-trials.

Please note: If you are not currently registered on Proactis you can also register on the link below. (Expressions of Interest must be submitted by Noon on the 1st of June 2020)