European ANSPs set out ATM/UTM integration and competitive UTM services blueprint

In a paper published on 7 May the A6 Alliance of air navigation service providers (ANSPs) has outlined its position on integrating UTM within ATM. In the same paper it set out a blueprint, based on SESAR JU CORUS concept of operations, of how UTM service provision should be organised in a competitive way within States.

According to the report:

“There is no clearly defined path towards the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in uncontrolled airspace – the areas of airspace in which operators are not mandated to use air traffic control services. One of the greatest challenges in this area is that, today, not all users make themselves “visible” (i.e they do not transmit electronically their identity or location) and indeed, some are reluctant to do so. Although there’s no international consensus on how this should be addressed, it is worth stressing that without situational awareness of all manned aircraft it will be difficult to accommodate complex drone operations such as BVLOS and autonomous flights, which in turn limits the growth potential of drone based services.”

The A6 outlined a high-level architecture to support the evolution of U-space.  The architecture (see above) consists of the following roles:

  • A publicly-mandated U-space Services Manager: An entity designated by the National Authority to deploy, manage and operate the essential services required for the safe integration of drones, providing a set of basic functions to downstream U-space Service Suppliers (see definition below) as a public service. Services would include drone flight plan dissemination and/or approval where required; the provision of reliable aeronautical and airspace data (restricted areas, temporary restricted zones, etc.) for geo-awareness; and the interface with ATC, among others. The U-space Services Manager ensures equitable access to the airspace to all U-space Service Suppliers and harmonises the interaction between them and with manned aviation, with the authority to determine and impose a solution in cases of prioritisation and when safety might be compromised. The existence of the U-space Services Manager ensures interoperability and conformity between different U-space Service Suppliers. For every downstream U-space Service Supplier, the U-space Services Manager may act as a proxy/intermediary to the manned Air Traffic Management system. Whilst the core role of the U-space Services Manager is to provide the basic U-space functions outlined above the provider of this service could, dependent on national preferences, also act as default U-space Service Supplier.
  • A federation of U-space Service Suppliers (U-space SS): These service suppliers would act as the main interface of the system with their U-space customers (Drone Operators and other users). Each U-space SS would provide a subset of U-space services within a volume of airspace. Core functions would include the exchange of information, data provision and navigation services. These services will usually be customer oriented and can consist of all possible complementary services not directly rendered by the U-space Services Manager (e.g. specialist drone operation services for a user group e.g. Metropolitan, Military; Micro-weather provision; flight planning assistance; mission planner; drone fleet management).
  • Supporting Data Service Providers: an entity that provides trustworthy information to the U space ecosystem, especially to support its U-space traffic management services. These providers could provide data for different organisations for different domains, so they are not specific for U-space. Such a model would be consistent with the proposal outlined in the recent Airspace Architecture Study published by the SESAR Joint Undertaking on behalf of the European Commission.
  • Drone Operators: are licensed entities or persons accountable for U-space drone operations. Drone Operators could manage and supervise a fleet of one or several drones and execute the authorized operations (VLOS, BVLOS, in the future: automated, autonomous). They are users of the services provided by the system through the U-space Service Supplier and/or the U-space Services Manager.
  • Local/Sub-regional U-space Service Manager: locally supports and complements the U-space Services Manager, offering added services or restrictions for a specific zone or service. There might be a range of local/sub-regional U-space Service Managers – Metropolitan, Military, controlled airspace, National Park, ad hoc for public event. The set of services will be determined by the regulatory requirements of the local airspace, derived from its safety or security needs. This, for example, might result in a drone tracking requirement in an urban area but not necessarily in a national park. The Local/sub-regional U-space Services Manager might implement the required functionalities and on that basis the central or national U-space Services Manager might provide a different set of raw data and core services. U-space Service Suppliers would also locally interface with, and draw upon the Local/Sub-regional services.
  • Regulating Authority: A nationally appointed body in charge of filing and maintaining registries (e.g. drone, drone operator/drone pilot), issuing licenses, developing regulations of drone operations as well as keeping historical records of past drone operations. This entity may be a separate government designated authority or in some cases be part of the U-space Services Manager.

“The above proposed architecture illustrates how competition could be fostered in a secure, neutrally governed and standardised environment. The role of the U-space Services Manager acting as a proxy for the U-space Service Suppliers ensures the commercial privacy of each U-space Service Supplier and their respective customers drone operators. It also offers scalability, with the U-space Services Manager easily able to incorporate a new U-space Service Supplier entering the market.”

“For reasons of national security, local authorities may require that repositories of airspace, tracking, e-registry, and mission plans (or flight plans) reside in the Member State territory, and possibly being managed by the state authority or by the U-space Services Manager. In this role, the U-space Services Manager could quickly and easily provide law enforcement authorities with critical information required by investigations, instead of depending on multiple service providers operating from different jurisdictions. Also of paramount relevance is that the U-space Services Manager will provide the interface to the national ATM system. This limits the number of interfaces to the ATM system, thereby reducing the threat from hostile cyber-attacks. A single interface, limited to the U-space Services Manager becomes an additional security barrier to isolate highly critical ATM systems from external threats. Avoids duplication: ANSPs continue to retain a core role in helping to ensure the safety of manned airspace users operating in the airspace. Increasing drone use is already forcing ANSPs to adopt measures that help to protect the safety of those existing airspace users.

“….Only ANSPs can ensure a procedural and collaborative ATM/ATC interface, and its related technologies, toward U-space.”

The A6 alliance was founded in 2011 by the six ANSP members of the SESAR JU – DFS (Germany), DSNA (France), ENAIRE (Spain), ENAV (Italy), NATS (UK) and NORACON – a consortium including Austro Control (Austria), AVINOR (Norway), EANS (Estonia), Finavia (Finland), IAA (Ireland), LFV (Sweden) and Naviair (Denmark). In 2015 PANSA (Poland) became a full member of the A6 Alliance, together with the COOPANS Alliance for work associated with Deployment Manager and SESAR 2020; and the B4 Consortium for work associated with SESAR 2020. The A6 Alliance has also reached a collaboration agreement with Skyguide in relation to SESAR 2020 R&D activities.



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