New ICAO UTM report identifies core UTM services, challenges, issues and gaps

ICAO’s Edition Three of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) report – A Common Framework with Core Principles for Global Harmonization outlines the organisation’s view of what services should be included within a UAS traffic management (UTM) framework and the remaining gaps, issues and challenges that need to be addressed before a full range of UTM services can be implemented.

According to the publication:

“This document is intended to provide a framework and core capabilities of a “typical” UTM system to States that are considering the implementation of a UTM system. A common framework is needed to facilitate the harmonization between UTM systems globally and provide a stepped approach towards integration into the ATM system.”

The following bullet points provide an edited version of the services identified by IACO are core UTM deliverables and the gaps, issues and challenges that need to be addressed by air navigation service providers (ANSPs) in implementing this technology.


“As applicable to UAS operations in a UTM environment, these services may include, inter alia, the following:

  • Activity reporting service: a service that provides on-demand, periodic or event-driven information on UTM operations occurring within the subscribed airspace volume and time (e.g. density reports, intent information as well as status and monitoring information). Additional filtering may be performed as part of the service.
  • AIS: a service that enables the flow of aeronautical information/data necessary for the safety, efficiency, economy and regularity of, in this case, UAS operations.
  • Airspace authorization service: a service that provides airspace authorization from the delegated State authority to the UAS operator.
  • Discovery service: a service that provides users of the UTM system with information on relevant services of varying levels of capability in a specific geographical volume of airspace (e.g. suppliers of meteorological information).
  • Mapping service: a service that provides terrain and obstacle data (e.g. GIS) appropriate and necessary for meeting the safety and mission needs of individual UAS operations or for supporting UTM system needs for the provision of separation or flight planning services.
  • Registration service: a service that enables UAS operators to register their UA and provide any required data related to their UAS. The system should also include a query function enabling authorized stakeholders (e.g. regulators or police services) to request registration data….
  • Restriction management service: a service that manages and disseminates directives (e.g. safety bulletins) and operational and airspace restrictions from the CAA or ANSP to UAS operators and remote pilots, including in the form of NOTAMs.
  • Flight planning service: a service that, prior to flight, arranges and optimizes intended operational volumes, routes and trajectories for safety, dynamic airspace management, airspace restrictions and mission needs (this is not intended to refer to the existing manned aircraft flight planning services).
  • Conflict management and separation service (Please refer to ICAO Doc 9854 Global ATM Operational Concept), including, inter alia: a. Strategic deconfliction service: a service consisting of the arrangement, negotiation and prioritization of intended operational volumes, routes or trajectories of UAS operations to minimize the likelihood of airborne conflicts between operations.
  • Tactical separation with manned aircraft service: a service that provides real-time information about manned aircraft so that UA remain well clear of manned aircraft.
  • Conflict advisory and alert service: a service that provides remote pilots with real-time alerting through suggestive or directive information on UA proximity to other airspace users (manned or unmanned).
  • Conformance monitoring service: a service that provides real-time monitoring and alerting of nonconformance to intended operational volumes, routes or trajectories for a UAS operator or remote pilot.
  • Dynamic reroute service: a real-time service that provides modifications to intended operational volumes, routes or trajectories to minimize the likelihood of airborne conflicts and maximize the likelihood of conforming to airspace restrictions, while enabling completion of the planned flight. This service would include the arrangement, negotiation and prioritization of in-flight operational volumes, routes or trajectories of UA operations while the UA is airborne.
  • Identification service: a service that makes it possible to identify an individual UA and the associated nationality and registration information….
  • Tracking and location service: a service that provides information to the UAS operator and the UTM system about the exact location of UA, in real time….
  • Meteorological service: a service that provides individual UAS operators/remote pilots or other UTM services with the meteorological information necessary for the performance of their respective functions.


Many of the gaps addressed below become more significant at the boundaries between UTM and ATM systems and/or when UA transition between these systems.

  • Airspace classification. The current airspace classification scheme as developed for manned aviation may not effectively support visual line-of-sight (VLOS) or BVLOS operations. This gap includes the potential modification of current classes of airspace or potentially creating new classes of airspace to accommodate the range of needs brought by UAS operations.
  • Airspace access. The policies, rules and priorities required to support equitable access to airspace must be developed (the European Union, for example, is examining policies on fair access to airspace).
  • Rules of the Air. Rules of the Air which specify flight rules, right-of-way, altitude above people and obstructions, distance from obstacles and types of flight rules, all of which, as written, are incompatible with the intended operations within UTM systems.
  • Operational procedures. Procedures specific to the UTM system, including normal, contingency and emergency scenarios, are needed. Such procedures would need to be harmonized with ATM systems whenever UAS operations are planned near the boundary between UTM and ATM or if UA will transit from one system to the other.
  • Liability and insurance implications for USPs in relation to UAS operators must be determined.
  • Certification of the UTM system, particularly when interacting with an ATM system, and, for UA, meeting the principles of airworthiness, scaled to an appropriate level based on risk(s).
  • Data standards. Appropriate data standards (e.g. data quality specifications, data protection requirements) and protocols to support UTM safety-related services and the exchange of data between UTM and ATM systems as well as between multiple UTM systems are needed.
  • Positional references. Common altitude, navigation and temporal references for manned and unmanned operations are needed. Gaps in the use of reference points and equipment providing different levels of accuracy and performance in the measurement of altitude, navigation or time introduce safety concerns which must be resolved. Determining the extent to which traditional aviation standards can be used remains a work in progress. Traditional standards which address the provision of such references should be utilized whenever possible.
  • Interface between UTM and ATM. There is a need to develop procedures and adequate tools to ensure the sharing of information, the interoperability of the two systems, and to identify roles, responsibilities and limitations.
  • Data recording. Data-recording policies and capabilities, similar to ATC data retention and aircraft flight recorder requirements, are needed to support accident/incident reporting and investigative requirements.
  • Remote pilot interfaces as well as capabilities and performance requirements for communications with the UTM system must be developed. These include the ability to interface/communicate with ATC and pilots of manned aircraft.
  • Alerting systems. The safety and integrity of the UTM system, failure-alerting and failure management must be addressed. Policies, guidance and procedures will need to be developed to address the degradation or failure of the various UTM components or entire UTM system as well as the restoration of systems after such degradations or failures.
  • Contingency management protocols. A dynamic operating environment must have operating protocols that account for contingencies both of the UTM system(s) providing multiple services and of the aircraft operating within the UTM system.


  • The issue of modification, adaptation or applicability of requirements for airspace and procedure design when considering topics such as navigation performance has yet to be addressed.
  • To ensure system reliability and safety, frequency spectrum availability and supportability need to be determined based on the UTM system architecture. The establishment of a UTM service within a volume of airspace may affect the classification of that airspace (e.g. changes from Class G to D airspace).
  • The UTM and ATM interface, including responsibilities and procedural development, must be addressed to ensure compatibility between manned and unmanned operations. UTM and ATM systems may have different communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) requirements for different aircraft. The systems need to exchange data effectively so that each system can manage the aircraft relevant to its responsibilities. CNS requirements in UTM may differ from ATM.
  • Data sharing protocols will need to consider State data privacy policies. Further research is required to support the development of the interoperable standards and protocols for the elements of UTM and ATM data exchange.


Aircraft participating in the UTM system must be separated from each other and from other hazards (e.g. buildings, terrain or adverse weather). This separation management should include guidance and responsibilities complemented by other tools and procedures to properly address scalability. Separation management may have to be supported by additional standards, policies, capabilities or tools, including:

  • a DAA capability to identify/detect and avoid conflicting aircraft and any other hazards;
  • methodologies to allow improved or enhanced detectability and conspicuity of UA by manned aviation;
  • assignment of responsibility for conflict management and separation provision, particularly in low-level airspace, which may include unique solutions such as separation provision being delegated to the UA or the UTM system;
  • development of UA separation standards within the UTM system, which may include the need for safety margins based on elements such as airspeed, weight and UA equipment;
  • assessment of existing and future separation standards between UA and manned aircraft whenever they operate in proximity to each other;
  • determination of the relevant surveillance capability and performance for the UTM system to support the integration of new or novel aircraft and operations;
  • development of policies to address means of compliance or system approval for UTM systems;
  • implementation and maintenance of a safety management system as currently required by aviation systems related to manned aviation;
  • achievement of a required data quality (e.g. on accuracy, resolution, integrity, timeliness, completeness, traceability, format) of the system. The standards applied to UTM systems that are intended to interface with the ATM system will need to be compatible and interoperable.
  • forecasting and dissemination of micro-weather to address localized weather patterns that may impact low altitude UA operations (e.g. urban canyon phenomenon, windshear, diurnal effects caused by urban structures, etc.).

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