‘ICAO’s UTM framework continues to be iterative document’ says Advisory Group

ICAO’s Unmanned Air Traffic Management (UTM) Advisory Group (AG) is due to release the latest edition of its high-level UTM framework. The draft version of Edition 3 is based on the findings of the Drone Enable symposium held in Montreal in late 2019 and is the final stages of the ICAO approval process. The publication addresses specific problem areas including structure and approval processes for UTM service providers; separation and deconfliction in UTM; and UTM risk assessment and contingency procedures. It also provides several examples of existing risk assessment models which can be used by states to help develop their own models.

In a shared video presentation, ICAO UTM Advisory Group secretary and RPAS technical officer Mark Wuennenberg said it was notable just how complex and interactive the various aspects of UTM are. “The deployment of a safe, full operational system will not be easy or simple. When UAS-AG was doing its work, whenever one issue was raised, several other challenges came to light. This will continue until the ecosystem develops a bit further. For this reason, until regulations and standards are in place, the UTM framework will continue to be an iterative document, as it has been, providing guidance on the most pressing topics.”

ICAO has already started working on Edition 4, and has issued a Request for Information (RFI). Due to COVID-19, the RFI was extended until 25 Sept 2020. The UTM Advisory Group will review the papers and determine which best address the problem statements. Those selected will be invited to present at Drone Enable 2021. Edition 4 is intended to address three specific UTM problem areas which the Advisory Group sees as the most significant out of many:

  • Unmannned aircraft performance requirements in a UTM environment
  • UTM system certification requirements
  • Transitioning UTM integration into aerodrome environments/activities.

As early as 2015 ICAO recognised that its processes could not keep up with the pace of technology and therefore set up the UAS-Advisory Group. Initial work included the development of the ICAO UAS Toolkit. Once completed, UAS-AG moved onto UTM activities. The activity relies on innovative processes including Request for Information (RFI) activity and Drone Enable symposia. Recognising the need for UTM to interact/integrate with ATM systems, ICAO is developing a UTM framework in collaboration with industry/academia to address high level requirements. It is not a technical solutions document. Edition 1 features registration, identification and tracking; communications systems; geofencing-like systems; and potential architectures. In Edition 2, the framework expanded to include UTM-ATM boundaries and transitions; and information exchange between ATM and UTM.

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