“Switzerland is the world’s most advanced UTM State” – new country-ranking guide from Unmanned Airspace

By Philip Butterworth-Hayes

Which countries will lead the race to deploy a UTM/U-space network which will allow the drone industry to scale up to become fully commercially viable?

Switzerland currently tops the list, according to the new UTM Global Readiness Guide, a new feature in the June 2022 edition of Unmanned Airspace’s Market for UAV Traffic Management Services, edition 5.1 (https://www.unmannedairspace.info/uav-traffic-management-services/).

The UTM readiness index is based on the progress by individual countries to develop regulations, standards, procedures and technology maturity levels to support automated flight approvals and management of beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) multiple drone operations in a single airspace. The index also takes account the take-up by drone operators of opportunities to commercially exploit the opportunity of maturing UTM systems. It references other drone regulation maturity index studies (for example, Eurocontrol’s U-space implementation monitoring tool and the regulatory readiness index published by Drone Industry Insights) plus the progress reported by the study’s authors in implementing UTM/U-space regulations at a national scale.

The UTM Global Readiness Guide  concludes that countries with relatively tight-knit drone eco-system stakeholder relationships – regulators, research agencies, operators, UTM system suppliers, communities etc – are moving at a much faster rate than larger economies where there are wide institutional divisions between stakeholder groups. While large economies have made progress in developing discrete U-space “bubbles”, these are mainly based on hand-picked industry players and are not generally open to widespread competition in the UTM supplier market.

“There is one key indicator we use to test UTM readiness.” said the report’s author Philip Butterworth-Hayes. “When the key players including drone operators, regulators and UTM system suppliers all know exactly when and where UTM services will be launched to support scalable BLVOS missions, when they know in detail what technologies and standards will be in place to gather and exchange safety critical data, and, perhaps most challenging of all, what their legal obligations and revenue streams look like, then that’s a relatively mature UTM operation. Very few countries are close to this.”

There are some notable omissions. It is currently not possible to gather data from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to properly evaluate where the China realistically stands in the scale of UTM maturity. Work is China seems to be happening in parallel – with the development of urban air mobility networks potentially forging ahead of the UTM infrastructure to support these operations – rather than sequentially, as elsewhere. And no State has more drone/UAM research programmes per head of population than the UK – but it is not clear which of these will deliver the rules and procedures to directly allow imminent automated UTM drone operations in complex airspace. The Airspace of the Future project has started live trials with the UK National Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) and aims to enable drones to transition from visual line of sight (VLOS) to BVLOS operations by 2030. Other European States plan for these operations to be launched well before that date.

  • Unmanned Airspace has been reporting on the progress of UTM development and deployment since 2017 and a relies on a global network of expert industry sources for its assessments of market values and progress. More information on the index, along with country-by-country UTM readiness reports, forecast revenue streams, overall market values and competing business plans are available now in the Unmanned Airspace’s Market for UAV Traffic Management Services 2022-2006, edition 5.1 ( (https://www.unmannedairspace.info/uav-traffic-management-services/). To know more about this report please contact the editor at philip@unmannedairspace.info.
Position Reasons behind the ranking
1.     Switzerland The first ANSP in the world to introduce a network remote ID UTM service and write legal obligations for all UTM stakeholders. In parallel developments, drone based RID transmitters have been developed by industry and the national drone association. The country’s ANSP has migrated to a virtual centre, agile engineering approach which should make UTM/ATM integration easier.
2.     Belgium U-space operations to support multiple drone mission are already underway at the Port of Antwerp, where the authority provides geo-zone services in collaboration UTM technology partner Unifly. Automated BVLOS drone activity will become a reality in 2022. According to the 2022 Drone Regulation Report 2022 by Drone Industry Insight, Belgium is among the top three  countries most prepared for drone regulation and applications
3.     Canada In June 2021, Canada’s air navigation service provider NAV CANADA publicly launched the ‘NAV Drone’ application as part of its national RPAS Traffic Management (RTM) platform supplied by Unifly. About 70% of all flight requests are now automatically approved. Canada also hosts a number of commercially successful BVLOS drone operators. In June 2022 Drone Delivery Canada reported the start of BVLOS commercial operations from Edmonton International Airport. In April Canadian UAVs secured a Canada-wide Special Flight Operations Certificate (SFOC) for the operation of its fleet of small BVLOS drones. While in the same month AIRmarket conducted a BVLOS aerial inspection of a rail line in Canada with a 130km flight lasting 90 minutes.
4.     Poland One of world’s first national operational UTM/ATM systems to coordinate drone flights in controlled airspace and to support drone pilots in all areas of a national airspace, was operationally launched on the morning of 2 March 2020 when 124 flight plans for drone missions were filled and approved using the PansaUTM system in Poland.  The Polish government has allocated over PLN 740 million (USD 201 million) to the development of U-space and related drone services, according to the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA), as part of a national economic recovery plan. The Eurocontrol U-space implementation monitoring report says Poland is one of the first in the list EU countries for developing U-space rules and procedures.
5.     Croatia U-space implementation monitoring report says Croatia is one of the first in the list EU countries for developing U-space rules and procedures.
6.     Australia Development of a national UTM flight information management system announced at the start of 2022. According to the 2022 Drone Regulation Report 2022 by Drone Industry Insight, Australia is in the top three of the list of countries most prepared for drone regulation and applications
7.     Austria In April 2022 AustroControl and Frequentis launched a drone management solution to be operational in 2023.
8.     Israel The Civil Aviation Authority of Israel has now crossed the 13,000 flight count in the INDI Israel National Drone Initiative (formerly NAAMA) and is making more progress on field testing the application of U-Space as an integral part of Israel’s National Airspace. A tender has been issued (https://www.unmannedairspace.info/latest-news-and-information/israels-innovation-authority-announces-tender-for-israeli-participation-in-next-stage-u-space-trials/) for more advanced research into U-space development and implementation.
9.     Germany In February 2022 the German government announced it will launch several U-space areas in the country during 2023 following the publication of recommendations and results of the Port of Hamburg sandbox U-space trials. Germany’s Droniq is planning to be one of the first U-space service providers certified in the European Union.
10.  Norway Avinor Air Navigation Services is working with Frequentis and Altitude Angel to implement a UTM system at 18 airport towers across Norway. The system, which is being tested in a real-world environment at the first two airport towers before being rolled out nationwide, is designed to support the country’s future drone strategy. According to the 2022 Drone Regulation Report 2022 by Drone Industry Insight, Norway is in top three list of countries most prepared for drone regulation and applications. Norway’s Nordic Unmanned drone operator has an extensive network of BVLOS operations.
11.  Dubai The GCAA issued 180 operational approvals for drone systems during the first quarter of 2022, and the number of amateur registrants reached about 20,000. The authority also completed licensing 181 operators for commercial and government use, including 870 drones for the same purpose. The State has a mature urban UTM system already developed and would have been further up the list had not the UAE Ministry of Interior (MoI) banned all drone flights at the start of the year following drone attacks on Abu Dhabi by Houthi forces.
12.  Denmark The initial UTM system was trialled in Funen airspace, at the drone test centre at HCA Airport and during 2021 the platform has been gradually deployed throughout the whole country. The UTM platform will be expanded with additional and increasingly advanced functions which will make it possible to carry out very complex drone operations, fully integrated with existing air traffic.
13.  Finland In February 2021 Finland’s Fintraffic Air Navigation Services (ANS) selected Astra UTM to implement initial UTM centric services in Finland.  In January 2022 AstraUTM announced its second deployment in Finland of its UTM as part of the DROLO USP Project, to facilitate advanced demonstrations of BVLOS use cases and real-time telemetry exchange over the 4G/5G cellular network.
14.  Spain In August 2021 ENAIRE selected Indra to develop an automated and digital U-space done management platform. The solution is expected to provide U-space services for the automated management of drone operations BVLOS. Indra is partnered with Airbus and Unifly under the contract which has an execution timeline through 2023, extendable by 24 months.
15.  India In October 2021 India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation published a high-level UTM roadmap in which stakeholder roles are defined and the next steps for UTM implementation have been published. The government wants to develop a hybrid approach to UTM deployment, allowing competition between UTM service suppliers where possible but also considering the opportunity for single UTM services in niche areas of the market, such as delivery of goods and services by drone in remote rural areas.
16.  Japan The Japanese government is expected to lift imminently lift its ban on BVLOS drone flights. Currently, some of these drone can be permitted in less populated areas such as the remote islands and mountainous areas of Japan.
17.  Singapore Advanced drone operations have started at Singapore port and the country plans to become a centre of urban air mobility operational development. Earlier this year the Government issued a tender for the Provision of Consultancy Services for UTM Development in Singapore.
18.  USA In March 2022 the Federal Aviation Administration’s UAS BVLOS Aviation Rule Making committee (UAS-BVLOS ARC) issued its final recommendations, including the need for the FAA to set acceptable level of risk targets for all types of drone operations. The FAA plans field tests for new entrants later this year in collaboration with industry and stakeholders to test UTM safety standards and data exchanges, Extensive trials are underway throughout the USA – and mention must be made of the highly successful LAANC program – but commercial daily BVLOS operations remain constrained. While UTM area “bubbles” are emerging which concentrate complex drone flights in core research areas, there are continuing questions over the revenue potential for UTM service suppliers. Key, pioneering UTM services suppliers AirMap and Skyward have exited the market.
19.  Netherlands In October 2021 Den Helder, the Netherlands, announced plans to establish its own DronePort.
20.  France = The French U-space Together programme aims to experiment on a very large scale with UTM solutions. In June 2021 Clearance and Thales announced they were working to interconnect their respective platforms to allow drone pilots to create a flight plan on the Clearance platform and, with a single click, to transfer their request to the relevant air navigation services and prefectures.
20.  Italy = d-flight S.p.A is progressively rolling out UTM services to Italian drone operators and has made major progress in areas such as collocating counter-UAS services in a drone eco-system and supporting UAM BVLOS flights, in the CORUS-XUAM very large demonstrator programme.
20. Ireland = A growing network of drone delivery flights is being developed in several parts of the country, with the regulator, local authorities and drone operators working together to develop early commercial opportunities for more complex operations.
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