“UTM/U-Space will establish airspace management technologies for all future aircraft operations” – GUTMA Connected Skies webinar

“We view UTM and U-space as establishing the future of the management of all airspace, from the surface to Space for all users, existing and emerging,” said Mildred Troegeler, Director of Global Airspace Integration at Boeing NeXt, speaking at the April 1 GUTMA Connected Skies webinar Advanced use of connectivity for drone operations. We are already on the path of increasing autonomy in ATM, she said, and UTM/U-space allows this work to progress at a much higher pace in a safe and controlled environment to truly explore the art of the possible. “It will be a long and carefully controlled journey and without the engagement of the telecommunicaitons industry this is a pathway with a potentially missed opportunity,” she said.

Key to the future will be reliable, timely and secure communications as critical enablers to future airspace and ATM concepts such as UTM. “A fundamental constraint is spectrum and we will need to find new ways of delivering communications solutions sufficient to meet the demand,” she said. “We may need to think beyond the existing solution space of protected spectrum.”

As an example of Boeing’s work in this area the company recently organised a firefighting and recovery operation with (Boeing company) Insitu in Victoria, Australia. An Insitu unmanned air vehicle operated at altitudes up to 7,000ft and 60 miles from launch and recovery point with the flight crew situated more than 1,000 miles away communicating via the LTE mobile network. This established an important precedent than can be radically extended to UTM, said Mildred Troegeler, as the company had to ensure the regulator had sufficient confidence in the reliability of the system. “This is a line in the sand which we hope to incrementally advance with the various authorities, and is really key to building on the success of partnering with broader spectrum of authorities and mobile network and service providers,” she said.

According to Amit Ganjoo, CEO and Founder, ANRA Technologies, standards for vehicle communications protocols have been evolving, from the original ground-based vehicle-to-vehicle communication network developed for smart motorway communications, based on the 5.9 GHz spectrum and independent of a cellular network (later expanded to vehicle-everything) to the most recently-developed drone-to-everything (D2X) protocols.  These include vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I). vehicle-to-network (V2N), vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-device (V2D), vehicle-to-grid (V2G), vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) and so on.

“With these standards you can move a lot of computing requirements to the edge – you can have networks created on the edge where drones are communicating to each other for cooperative operations or separation assurance,“ he said, in considering the UTM implications of these new technologies and standards,

A set of distinct underlying principles need to be developed against which an operational UTM solution can be measured and cellular has a role to play (in bold, below). UTM uses cellular networks primarily for tracking – but from a broader drone operational viewpoint, where cellular is being considered for command and control and to support BVLOS operations, “the good thing about the standards evolving is that they have latency levels of around 150 milliseconds, which works great because the human reaction time is slower than that,” said Amit Ganjoo.

Key UTM principles – cellular relevance

Safety ·       Situational awareness

·       Separation services

·       Performance standards

Security ·       Authorisation

·       Remote identification

Transparency ·       Airspace access

·       Flight prioritisation

·       Data access privileges

Flexibility ·       Platform agnostic
Scalability ·       System capacity

·       Cost of operation

·       Ease of exploitation


The 3GPP system will also support high reliability even in high-speed mobility applications – such as high-speed trains – and the reliability goal is near 100%.

Building a UTM function within the drone management and communication system is another key feature of emerging drone-cellular network developments.

KDDI has already started using its mobile cellular system to manage drone operations via its Smart Drone Platform (SDPF) service, said Tetsuya Chiba, Director of European Research Office, KDDI. “This handles not only the communication and connection management functions but also the management of the drone itself and the operation control and assists in the management of weather and navigational data. Included in the SDPF is a UTM function, provided with partners – Zenrin, for the mapping function – and TerraDrone for the dedicated UTM system.

“Real time control using 5G and 4K HD video is now possible,” he said. “A 4K camera at a low latency mounted on a  drone and it flies over the 5G area transmitting 4KHD video in front of the drone.”

Given the problems of supervision and technical and financial issues involved in using satellites for communications 4G and 5G mobile metwork are now essential for the industry, according to Xin Wang, an Engineer with China Unicom, and telecom providers are playing an increasingly important role in the industry. For example, China Telecom now provides customised antennas, customised drones and airborne modules along with value added services such as insurance, weather broadcast and topography services to clients in China.  In reply to a question from Barbara Pareglio, Technical Director, GSMA IoT Program and moderator of the event, Xin Wang said that China Telecom’s drone operations network had been developed as a private, customised service for drone use, separate from the public network. “The 4/5G network can provide real time data transmissions involving control commands, telemetry and service contents; it will reliable and stable air-to-ground communications capacity and also helps high-level autonomous flying and low-latency access control and improving flight safety.”

NTT Docomo is a member of a national project sponsored by the Japanese Government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) which conducted interoperability tests in October 2019 with drones fitted with a small, 60 gram Docomo cellular edge device. The trial involved 29 different drone operators flying 146 drones in one hour over a 1 sq km grid, with safety data shared via a flight information management system to several UAS service providers, said Takashi Hara, Senior Manager of Innovation Management, NTT Docomo. Further tests have involved analysing radio wave intensities at different altitudes (lighter colour showing risk of out-service areas – see above).

An audience of 96 participants took part in the webinar, which was organised for GUTMA by https://www.manageld.com/.

Further webinars in this series:

Which supplemental data services can be provided for Drones? E.g., aviation weather, terrain and obstacle data, network coverage and service level, information about critical infrastructure, local events and flight restrictions, etc.

What data can be collected, processed and stored at the edge of the mobile network to increase the scalability and value of drone services.

For more information



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