Fanni Lukácsy is the Secretary General of the Global UTM Association (GUTMA)
How do you see the association developing over the next two to three years?
We would like to see GUTMA as the focal point for UTM – with “UTM” meaning not just UAS Traffic Management but Unified Traffic Management for aviation, too. This is the grand vision that we are formulating within GUTMA. There’s an enormous amount of technical knowledge of UTM and the drone industry and within our membership which we want to deploy for the benefit of the whole drone ecosystem.
We have to continuously develop further our connections to international and regional regulators, policy-makers, standards bodies and fellow technical organisations who might be faced with similar problems in terms of bridging different technologies. Our Connected Skies Forum on June 18-20 will be a bridge between telecommunications and aviation sectors. These industries claim large shares of UTM development and deployment, but they don’t talk to each other. We will help to connect their technical solutions with the knowledge of the unmanned industry. And we will deliver these interfaces and solutions to decision-makers and regulators who are currently missing this kind of knowledge.
How do you see yourself positioning with the air navigation service provider (ANSP) community, with an organisation like the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), for example?
We are positioning GUTMA to be the first go-to organisation in terms of UTM. We want to act as an advisory body, totally independent and equally focussed on the key stakeholders of the industry. We would like to understand and help ANSPs to integrate drones into their national airspace systems. From a technical point of view we liaise with civil aviation authorities (CAAs) to develop interoperable and harmonised regulations conducive to international and cross-border beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations – but also international in terms of drone service provision by businesses. We are focussing on the utility of drones and enabling the opening-up of the global drone market.
Do you have the resources to do all this?
Currently we encompass 70 organisations from 25 countries, representing a great sample of every aspect of UTM theory and solution that can emerge at any point, in any discussion, in any part of the world. We have contacts and resources at granular levels with the capability to engage the market at a global level. This is our strength and it was amazing to see at the World ATM Congress – which was seen by many as more like the “World UTM Congress” than the “World ATM Congress” – that one-third of our membership was there, either exhibiting or participating. The whole Congress this year was about drones and integrating drones into airspace. It was incredible how enthusiastic our members were there – and the non-members involved in UTM, as well. There is an intense willingness and energy within the GUTMA community to move ahead and support industry in opening up the market to realise all the benefits that drones can bring to the economy.
So your vision of GUTMA’s future is essentially to provide the building blocks for a technical solution to integration, rather than become a political or lobbying organisation.
Yes, we are focussing approximately 80% of our activities on the technical aspects of UTM because after our review of GUTMA and the UTM environment and discussing this issue with stakeholders we identified there is a missing link between theory and deployment and that missing link is technology. It sounds easy but when you talk to regulators and standards bodies they don’t necessarily have the knowledge to solve the technical, connectivity and interoperability issues of UTM.
Interoperability should be managed by connecting UTM service providers to ANSPs and CAAs, then connecting the other stakeholders of UTM – like other authorities, supplementary data providers and other third parties who are involved in unmanned aerial missions. GUTMA will focus on working on these interfaces. We would like to see the whole UTM architecture as being interlinked, totally technology-agnostic and future-proof, scalable and manageable. In the end the UTM market should be an open market, a competitive market, where UTM service providers just plug in and do their business.
This is our future. And for this we have a really versatile resource in the shape of many key UTM service providers around the world; consolidating their approaches to UTM will result in a real, globally harmonised solution.
One of your challenges must be to integrate very different approaches to developing UTM services throughout the world.
There is a constructive pressure in GUTMA already at the membership level – when you gather industry players together, then you gather competitors together and you have to make them sit at the same table and discuss the differences and similarities between their solutions. And this is how we will distil a common solution for UTM and for parts and interfaces for the whole UTM ecosystem. This is the system we plan to build and then promote at any regional level – it is then up to the regulator or the local authority to deploy it according to their understanding of the market format.
There are different views about monopolistic service provision around the world. But even when you look, for example, at a European nation state or the European Union, and how they want to implement UTM, the main desire is to have a competitive market. If one country decides it will be totally monopolistic in air traffic management with one ANSP and one UTM service provider – totally attached to the ANSP – there will still be a border to this airspace and the system will need to be connected to a neighbour’s. This is an interface which should be solved in a harmonised, standardised, unified way.
How about your members’ views on how telecommunications companies and the role that 4G, 5G network providers will play in UTM? Is there a general agreement among GUTMA members about how the relationship between telecommunication providers and service providers can best be organised?
UTM relies heavily on mobile communications infrastructure. We share this vision with the GSM Association (GSMA); GSMA is one of our main partners in the Connected Skies event. There is a combined GUTMA/GSMA concept behind developing this conference, the first of its kind in the world to bring together the aviation and telecommunication industries for UTM, also with the top actors of the UTM sector. The key players will be there for three days to listen to each other, talk to each other because they both have a large share in the UTM market.
At a certain point we have to realise that we will need to work together because UTM is not the classical ATM market that we know. Drones are the “missing link” between telecommunication and aviation and we are expecting major results from this conference. It will not be the regular three days of listening to one person delivering thoughts to everyone else, but it will be a really intense, interactive two-track event, with workshops and pop-ups. It will be absolutely technology focussed and in the end, we should be able to develop a manifesto or declaration from the two industries – or let’s say three because there are drone operators as well – covering major solutions and technical initiatives for connectivity, identification, BVLOS, urban UTM, and such areas in this domain.
The major outcome of Connected Skies will be a manifesto, a declaration, a strategy for the telecoms and UTM industries to work more closely together?
Yes exactly. And not just industry – regulators, standards bodies, local authorities and other state agencies. Because GUTMA is not isolated and Connected Skies is not exclusively for industry actors. There will be several, really important representatives of international authorities and research organisations, standards bodies. We are in frequent connection with numerous organisations to consult on their projects, give input and collaborate in the development of UTM.
Can you give me some examples of this work?
A good example is our global drone registry and registry broker project. It is an open source solution developed in collaboration with ICAO’s CAST and ARN teams to complement the manned aircraft registry systems and potentially upgrade to be The Global Drone Registry schema and query capability promoted by ICAO. We are consulting the initiative with other CAAs and ANSPs, comparing their registry concepts with our “ICAO-compatible” version.
GUTMA’s job here is to provide technical solutions to the interoperability of registries and how the different systems can be accessed, one system by another, so they can understand each other’s entries. For example, if a drone, operator or pilot is registered in one country but wants to fly in another country it should be possible to query the home country’s drone registry database, to have access to the registration and qualification data of the pilot and drone.
One of the priorities of many States is to provide a secure airspace – what is GUTMA doing in terms of helping them develop effective counter-UAS policies to protect sensitive airspace areas?
This is the other topic that we are focussing on – it has sub-topics, with different aspects of airspace security and stakeholder privacy. We are in a very good position in a way that many GUTMA members are participating in different UTM demonstrations the world over – FAA, NASA programmes in the USA, the SESAR projects in Europe and other trials in Singapore, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In any demonstration programme there is at least one GUTMA member active there. This is such valuable knowledge we are gathering it cannot be found anywhere else.
What we would like to do with this knowledge is to build a holistic UTM architecture with all the necessary interfaces for the safety, security, flexible scalability and manageability of versatile future air traffic. This is composed of inter-UTM service provider communications, links with the ANSP and CAA, as well as other stakeholders. The above mentioned demos show brilliantly how UTM or U Space service providers can communicate with each other though the ANSP, through the CAA, which maintains the registry. The key characteristics in this architecture are the interfaces, and the roles and responsibilities – how these different entities communicate with each other and what kind of data they exchange during the different segments of a mission.
So are you looking to have a GUTMA standard interface?
This kind of execution level is under negotiation. We organised a major GUTMA workshop in Cologne, before the EASA U-space workshop; where we gathered to discuss our technical projects, strategy and focus points. Progress will be visible to the public soon.
Do you see GUTMA growing in size?
We have ambitious targets for growing the association, and for being more active in public relations than before. We plan to do more than one main event a year. Connected Skies is our flagship event attracting huge interest, but we are planning regional conferences too. As one of our members noted: we grew, now we have to deliver.
We would like to shake up the community and harness our capabilities to work faster, because it’s a sleeping beast. When I talk to members, their energy, enthusiasm and knowledge is striking and we all are ready to deploy resources for the common benefit.
Where do you see your role in urban air mobility (UAM)?
We see it as one application of UTM – which is why we are concentrating on creating technology like protocols, APIs, architectures, interoperability solutions, so we will be able to accommodate any utility, drone and management system that can bring benefits for humanity and the economy. UAM is one part – surveillance, monitoring and delivery are others. We see UTM as an enabler of massive economic value.
UAM is just one part of it, but it’s a complicated part. However, with our members’ knowledge, resources and experience we should be able to create such solutions for UTM which are manageable, scalable and future-ready for revolutionary scenarios.