“UTM is more than just about operating in your own space” – Eszter Kovacs, Acting Secretary General, GUTMA

Eszter Kovacs, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Manageld Ltd, is the new Acting Secretary General of the Global UTM Association (GUTMA)

How do you see GUTMA developing over the next 12 months?

As an acting secretary general, my mandate is to transition the association to stability supporting the hiring of a permanent secretary general. As we operate in a fast-growing environment, our membership evolved rapidly in the last few months. With a large and diverse membership, my main focus is to set up an operational model which enables the creation of higher value for our members compatible with, and able to adapt to, the continuous changes in the ecosystem. As a Certified Agile Coach I have experience in developing agile operations for global, complex technical and political environments typical of associations such as GUTMA. My objective is to deliver to the permanent secretary general an association that runs smoothy and efficiently and is able to maximize value for membership.

I will also focus in refreshing existing collaborations, such as with ASTM and ISO as well as in establishing new ones in the interest of global harmonization.

GUTMA is working with GSMA on developing standards to exploit the capabilities of mobile network operators (MNOs) for UTM operations. How is that work progressing?

The Aerial Connectivity Joint Activity (ACJA) (https://gutma.org/acja/) is open to all GSMA and GUTMA members and is focusing on aviation and cellular community – on information sharing and avoiding incompatibilities between these groups.

We have four working groups: the standard coordination working group, the supplementary data services working group, the minimum operational performance specifications (MOPS) working group – where we try to identify what is the minimum connectivity that needs to happen – and the minimum aviation system performance standards (MASPS) group, which is identifying minimum operational standards.

GUTMA supports the ACJA activities through our Technical Project Manager, Pawel Trominski, as well as myself as a member of the steering board. The ACJA activities are progressing and expanding and we plan to produce the first reports in the upcoming months.

What happens after the reports come out?

Any report from ACJA, when accepted by GUTMA and GSMA boards, will be made available to the public. The main objective of these initiatives is to produce material that brings the two communities closer and allows both associations to advocate for a balanced use of cellular connectivity in aviation respectful of the needs of the drone operators. We aim to educate stakeholders and avoid duplication of efforts which would not be helpful to the industry.

Is this the main thrust of GUTMA’s work – developing standards?

Definitely not. It’s just a small part of what we do. We have a range of different initiatives: we want to see the implementation of a globally interoperable UTM, which involves not just standards but integration of drones in the international airspace system. If you harmonise ATM and UTM – and we need to harmonise the whole air traffic management system which can be used across the globe – we have to empower the UTM ecosystem. We place UTM service providers in the spotlight, we educate them with our webinars, we create a safe place where they can exchange practices in our internal channels so they can share knowledge and grow. We also work closely with regulators, air navigation service providers and other industry stakeholders. We believe in education; if regulators sit in closed rooms they will never be able to create something that will be acceptable to everyone. Engaging is key and doing it in an association such as GUTMA with regulators, ANSP and any other key stakeholder represented is the best way to achieve faster and better results.

How do you decide your priorities?

The approach is bottom-to-top and our board members are elected with a very transparent system. We have a very diverse board. I do believe that having industry, regulators and ANSP as board members from America, Europe, Asia, Australia will enable to create a well prioritized strategic direction for the association. My responsibility is then to implement the strategy set by the board.

What do you think the impact of Covid-19 will be on UTM and drone operations?

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I believe and hope that it will accelerate implementation because it will speed up innovation and solve problems. There are now many examples of good use cases which should enable faster implementation. GUTMA members can now cite positive use cases which have emerged from this unfortunate situation, helping people and the economy.

But in terms of the economy, the world will take a hit, which will be challenging not just for UTM but everyone.

How we can ensure that the momentum which has been built up behind drone operations to deliver medical supplies and help first responders will not simply be lost when the recovery takes hold?

It’s our responsibility to make sure this momentum is not lost. We have to collate these positive use cases and promote them to foster a rapid implementation. Consolidation is key. It’s the responsibility of everyone, including me, to make sure this happens.

How do you see your relationship with regulators, especially EASA and the FAA, developing?

GUTMA currently has three regulators in its membership. The Swiss FOCA, also a board member, the FAA and the Australian Civil Aviation Authority, CASA.

GUTMA puts a lot of effort into knowledge sharing. We believe in the importance of supporting our members – through webinars, for example – in gathering information because that’s the first step: understanding. That`s why we have created a two-way communication platform. Regulators understand ecosystems and can engage with them. Stakeholders can make their voices heard and engage with active Q-and-A sessions rather than just listen. We trust this is the best model for active engagement and we will follow it in our future initiatives.

How do you view GUTMA’s relationship with ASTM and other standards bodies evolving?

We collaborate closely with the ASTM, ISO and we are looking to expand our collaborations to other standard bodies such as EUROCAE. These strategic partnerships are built to enhance the value offered to our and other associations’ membership. For example, GUTMA members are eligible for a one year free membership with ASTM.

This is still a very male-dominated sector: how can we encourage more women into this industry and make it more diverse altogether?

There are multiple things we can do. The world needs positive examples of young, female leaders and I do believe we have more and more such as the Finnish Prime Minister who is 32 and the New Zealand PM who is also is in her thirties.

Diversity have to be visible and this covers many aspects – diversity of colour, disability, age and culture.

Diversity contributes to always having the right skill sets for each situation. And that’s key. If you don’t have the right skill-sets in your team you won’t succeed. So we need to be really diverse and have access to a fantastic pool of resources to succeed.

I think aviation has historically been a male-driven industry. The recent innovation wave however has created a new space for diversity. I find it extremely exciting also because aviation is part of a wider transformation movement centred around mobility. As a female leader I feel responsible not only for talking about this but also for making the change happen.

But I can’t do this by myself, we can only bring about change through collaboration.

Most of the discussions that take place in GUTMA centre around Europe, north America and Asia. How do we develop these discussions to extend operations in Africa, Latin America and other areas of the world where we need to build drone eco systems?

The key is engagement. We have recently onboarded the first traditional airline in GUTMA from the African region. They found us through our connected skies webinar. I think that this is exactly what we need to do as an association – educate and engage. We should support and foster innovation at global scale focusing also on local communities, local start-ups, local companies. This is why we try to make GUTMA an environment in which a discussion can be started in a safe way between local communities and big players.

What do you want your main message to be?

Innovation is what we need and we can only achieve it through global harmonization. Collaboration is key. This is my call for action: engage, reach out, be proactive and most of all, keep an open mind.

Eszter Kovacs spent the first decade of her career working within multinational companies, focusing on digitalization and telecommunication industries, on technical innovation and the drone sector. As a programme and project manager, she contributed to the growth of several companies, led implementations, mentored and advised their leaders regarding strategic planning, operational improvement and coaching best practises. She is the CEO and Founder of Manageld Ltd, a project and programme management company serving the drone, UAM and UTM industries. She has certificates in Agile coaching, Prince2 and holds a degree in Military & Safety Engineering from the Hungarian National University of Public Services.

 

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