Jeff Poole is Director General of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO)
Current ANSP CNS/ATM systems are not generally suitable for UTM operations, which is why many ANSPs are now partnering with dedicated UTM companies – Unifly, AirMap, Altitude Angel etc – to deliver UTM services. But if ANSPs want to integrate UTM into their ATM systems they will need to integrate new technologies such as very low level (VLL) airspace non cooperative surveillance systems, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain, automated UTM management of urban air mobility networks etc into their current CNS/ATM infrastructure. Do they have the resources, time and skill sets to do this?
UTM is an important aspect of changing airspace management requirements and, as the global voice of ATM, CANSO and its membership is working closely with its industry partners (including UTM and drone companies) and regulators to understand and develop the necessary requirements for safe, efficient and effective ATM and UTM in the future.
CANSO is leading the cross-industry ICAO Unmanned Aircraft System Advisory Group (UAS-AG) which is developing a UTM framework architecture and identifying the technical services that will comprise UTM. As proven system designs for UTM emerge, ANSPs will be in a position to decide on, develop and implement the appropriate and necessary tools and procedures for achieving harmonised airspace operations, while maintaining levels of safety and efficiency in ATM – which could either include or operate alongside UTM.
How does UTM fit into the wider future airspace management environment – upper airspace management, urban air mobility, SWIM etc? Can UTM be treated as a stand-alone service?
UTM as is presently proposed and discussed, is designed for low-level drone activity, parts of airspace and environment where traditional ATM support is limited. In the future it could also evolve to operate in traditional airspace, hence the need to ensure strong integration and compatibility of UTM and ATM. Discussions about UTM and the relationship and interaction between UTM and ATM depend on the outcome of the work currently being undertaken by the global aviation community through the ICAO UAS Advisory Group. It is possible the provision of UTM services could be part of traditional air navigation services but it could also sit outside of this. The scope and guidelines for concurrent operations are therefore yet to be determined.
Ultimately, UTM will benefit from the significant experience gained by ANSPs in ATM on concepts of operations, air navigation services, safety and security processes and business approaches. This does not mean that UTM needs to adopt the exact same principles or methods, as the UAS context is very different. In a similar way, ATM can learn from and benefit from the developments in UTM. The safe and fair integration of UAS into the aviation system therefore is a major project not only for ANSPs, but also for the industry as a whole working in close partnership.
When will CANSO ANSPs start charging for UTM services? What services and where?
Discussions about UTM and UTM service provision are ongoing, and operational capacities and commercial requirements will depend on each individual ANSP.
Isn’t there a danger that ATM controllers will be suddenly overloaded with UTM data, if the systems are to be integrated. How can we ensure only relevant and actionable UTM data is displayed to controllers?
The impact of new entrants to airspace and the requirements of UTM are an important area of interest for CANSO. While the full scope of UTM requirements is currently being developed, CANSO is already working with its Members to understand how this might impact ATM operations. Human-system performance interaction is an important aspect of this and guidelines and best practice for the day-to day management and integration of UTM will follow once an appropriate framework for UTM has been agreed and established. In short, as ever, the ATM industry will develop the tools and skills necessary to adapt to a changing environment and ensure a safe, efficient and seamless operation, including the management of data.
Is there a common CANSO view on how UTM contracts should be awarded? Will UTM always be an ANSP responsibility or should/could there be other providers who are not ANSPs? For example, shouldn’t cities be allowed to develop and manage their own UTM systems based on local population requirements? How should this decision be taken?
There are many views on what potential capabilities may be a part of UTM, how it could be operated and by whom. Exploring these is a critical part of the work being undertaken to establish a UTM framework architecture. The result of this work will be to develop common positions which take into consideration the safety impact for all users of the airspace system, and people and/property on the ground. The ICAO UAS-AG is an important forum for this discussion as both regulators, ANSPs and the UTM and drone industries are all important stakeholders in this aspect of airborne operations.