European software firm Unifly has pledged to increase its support for the emerging drone services market in 2021 as part of its mission to facilitate the global rollout of commercial UAVs as they become a normal part of our daily lives and air traffic.
Unifly provides a platform for unmanned traffic management and is targeting both national and local authorities, including those governing cities and areas with critical infrastructure, with its services.
One of the main barriers to the expansion of drone usage across various markets is integrating them safely with existing air traffic systems but Unifly hopes to show more and more authorities and regulators around the world that UAVs can be safely incorporated into airspace.
“We see that there is a big shift going on as more and more drone use cases become relevant and achievable, and authorities realise the need to have a system in place that streamlines these operations,” said Leon van de Pas, CEO of Unifly.
“There will always be an authority who decides who flies and who does not. Currently there are two main approaches, a centralised version – like we see them today – where everything is ruled by the government, and a federated model with multiple players.
“As more and more countries start to implement these, we will be able to learn from each other and make new combinations.”
Van de Pas believes that if Unifly manages to reach more authorities across the globe in 2021, there will be numerous benefits for commercial drone operators.
“Drone operators are heavily impacted by the evolution of their region’s regulatory landscape and they are the ‘customer’ of the authority granting them permission,” said van de Pas.
Some of the benefits for operators will include a simplified, largely automated and therefore much faster approval process, situational awareness, ability to fly BVLOS in high volume intensity and facilitation of complex and repeated missions.
Increasingly we are seeing responsibility and powers devolved to local authorities. For example, in the UAE this month, the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority was granted more autonomy from the central regulator.
Unifly believes in the federated model and that the market can have different regulatory authorities with different approaches as long as there are standards everyone adheres to. A question remains over whether there will there always be a need for an overarching authority or whether the responsibility be divided.
Van de Pas said it is important to facilitate drone usage across industries as UAVs “have a very large potential to contribute directly to the environmental, social and governance goals of our European region as well as in other regional markets”.
“Drones actively support the climate through use of sustainable energy. Unifly actively takes part in R&D and commercial projects to bring everyday drone traffic closer to reality in a safe and scalable way,” they said.
Van de Pas continued: “Drones have many applicable use cases in many industries. The most scalable and valuable use cases for drones require the ability to fly beyond visual line of sight.
“With the new European regulatory framework in place and a confirmed interest from the market, there is a push from the market to extend the flight range of the drones, as many of these use cases are viable only if they can be performed beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).”
Tracking devices such as BLIP provide authorities and drone pilots real-time visibility on drone traffic but van de Pas said such solutions are often beyond the reach of drone operators, as reliable devices available today are “too bulky for the drones and too expensive for drone operators”.
“Unifly specifically designed BLIP to be affordable yet high-performing. This way, Unifly reaches a segment of the market that needs a highly reliable tracking solution that is lightweight and accessible. BLIP is an integral part of Unifly’s offering, thus rounding out the platform with the ability to provide real-time tracking and identification.”
Van de Pas added: “From the very beginning, Unifly’s idea for the safe integration of unmanned traffic has been created and refined by a team of mixed specialities including aviation experts and engineers. This ensures that Unifly is intimately familiar with processes and methodologies used and expected in aviation. The team also knows what is feasible technologically and how to deliver it.
“The Unifly platform is designed to be implemented step-by-step; following the pace at which drones become a fully operational part of our daily lives. In the near future where artificial intelligence is essential to logistics and operations, Unifly continues to play a role in creating this safe and open ecosystem where unmanned and other automated vehicles can operate.”