Air Traffic Management System for Commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems

Eli Hini
Eli Hini
Jun 26, 2017 · 2 min read

This entry is centred around the article “Air traffic control for delivery drones” by David Schneider.

Beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations for commercial unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or drones is currently under testing by major drone manufactures and would be drone service operators for applications such as delivery and surveillance.

The idea of an air traffic control system for drones have been floated around for while (Schneider, 2017; NASA, 2015). Leveraging cellular networks, a network of aerial highways can be conjured for civilian drones where local air traffic control information can be communicated with drones (Schneider, 2017). Precision Hawk is working on a such system which they call Low Altitude Traffic And Airspace Safety (LATAS). Precision Hawk already develops a mission planning platform that uses satellite imagery to estimate obstacle heights and identify potential interference in flight paths (Schneider, 2017). According to Precision Hawk, they would like to see every drone adopt such a system (Schneider, 2017). Their drones use LATAS to get information on other aircraft in the airspace as well as communicate drone positions to other drones and possibly airspace.

PrecisionHawk is one of two other drone companies approved by the FAA to conduce BVLOS flight testing. Airware, another drone platform provider, is working with NASA along side other big industry names on an UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system similar to what is described in the paper (NASA, 2015).

The major significance of an air traffic control is safety for everyone involved. Since drones are already manufactured with autonomous capabilities, an air traffic control system will be the next best step to allow for fully autonomous missions that will remove unnecessary human interventions. Human operators will be able to focus on keeping the skies clear and safe for all aircrafts using the airspace.

References

Schneider, D. (2017). Air traffic control for delivery drones [top tech 2017] IEEE. doi:10.1109/MSPEC.2017.7802742

NASA, 2015. First Steps Toward Drone Traffic Management Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/ames/first-steps-toward-drone-traffic-management

NASA, 2015. NASA UTM: The Next Era of Aviation. Retrieved from https://www.utm.arc.nasa.gov

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