FAA concludes UTM/IPP second phase with virtual demonstrations of BVLOS operations

Marking the end of the second phase of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management Pilot Program (UTM/IPP), the agency has conducted virtual demonstrations in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and two UAS test sites: the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP), and the New York UAS test site (NYUASTS).

MAAP hosted an event on 28 October in partnership with UAS Service Suppliers (USS) AirMap, AiRXOS, ANRA Technologies, and Wing. On 9 November, NYUASTS hosted its showcase in coordination with the Griffiss International Airport, Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR), and USS partners AiRXOS, ANRA Technologies, AX Enterprize, and OneSky.

According to an FAA press release, the UPP results will provide a proof of concept for UTM capabilities and serve as the basis for policy considerations, standards development and the implementation of a UTM system.

The demonstrations showcased emerging UTM capabilities that will support beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations:

  • The FAA UTM Flight Information Management System prototype and infrastructure, which gives the FAA access to information from industry and other stakeholders.
  • New technologies and data to validate the latest international standards for remote identification and support authorized users with specific operator data.
  • In-flight separation from other drones or manned aircraft in high-density airspace to validate recently proposed international UTM standards to help drones avoid each other.
  • UAS volume reservations to notify drone operators of emergencies and make sure other UTM capabilities work properly in these scenarios.
  • Secure information exchanges between the FAA, industry and authorized users to ensure data integrity.

“The demonstrations will help move us closer to safe beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operations,” said Pamela Whitley, the FAA’s acting assistant administrator for NextGen. “Flight testing UTM capabilities in high-density airspace will help us develop policy for safely and efficiently integrating drones into our national airspace while benefiting and serving communities.”

Each event attracted more than 100 participants and included local and state elected officials and representatives from international civil aviation authorities. Both test sites collaborated with drone operators and local public safety agencies to demonstrate scenarios that featured various complex UTM capabilities working together to support BVLOS operations with increasing volumes and densities.

The FAA has worked closely with NASA, industry and other stakeholders since 2017 to identify the initial set of capabilities needed to support small drone operations and advance UTM.

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