Research project ‘to open pathway to commercial drone operations in the UK’


A ground-breaking new project in the UK is seeking to build and then demonstrate how Open-Access UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) capability can support drone operations below 400 feet.

The Connected Places Catapult is bringing together a national and international consortium to develop a world leading Open-Access UTM framework for drones.

The project, commissioned by the Department for Transport, will continue laying the groundwork for a safe flying environment for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations in the UK, enabling efficient sharing of airspace with manned aircraft and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations of drones.

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UTM is recognised as a key enabler to address the safe and efficient integration of unmanned vehicles into the airspace and Connected Places Catapult in collaboration with AiRXOS (part of GE Aviation), Altitude Angel, ANRA Technologies, Collins Aerospace and Wing will work towards the first set of the safe and regulated UTM capabilities this year.

This research and development project will create principal architectural features, communications interfaces and key services that will be evaluated through simulations before progressing to field-trials.

The trial will build on existing platforms and standards to create a developmental system to explore UTM and drone operations, as well as identifying the next research steps and facilitating knowledge transfer to government and industry.

Dr. Ajay Modha, Principal Technologist at the Connected Places Catapult, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate a UK-specific UTM ecosystem and represents a key step in lowering the technology and operational barriers for UAS operations.

“A key objective is to demonstrate how this capability can support near term and future markets needs and ambitions. As Phase 2 of the Future Flight Challenge kicks-off, a key aim of this project is to provide greater insight and actionable data to the UAS community who may be tackling UTM for the first time”.

Sean Camilleri, principal strategic development manager at Collins Aerospace, said: “This ground-breaking program gives us the opportunity to test out the most prominent emerging standards and theories of UAS traffic management and put them to the test in collaboration with our peers. Successful trials will enable us to move another step closer to unlocking the full social and economic benefits of beyond visual line of sight drone operations in the UK”.

Tags : ANRAConnected Places CatapultUTM
Sam Lewis

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