Catapult (UK) and Wing to Accelerate Drone Traffic Management Ecosystem

Source: Wing

Today Wing joins the Open-Access UTM research project, sponsored by the UK Department for Transport, to demonstrate shared services and interoperability with UTM Providers and Drone Operators. Wing Aviation LLC, an Alphabet company, today announced it has been selected by Connected Places Catapult (CPC) as part of an industry team to develop and formalize the next phase of its Open-Access UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system. This collaborative research and development project is sponsored by the UK Department for Transport.

Research by PwC suggests there will be more than 75,000 commercial drones in use in the UK by 2030. CPC selected Wing to develop the framework that will allow authorities to share airspace information with drone operators for its demonstration project. This will support the rapid growth of the country’s drone industry by enabling safe and compliant flights at low altitudes, for important applications like emergency response, drone delivery and advanced air mobility.

“Drones and the services they provide present significant benefits to the United Kingdom, supporting emergency response, reducing emissions, and increasing access to food, medicine and other goods. We’re pleased to be joining the Catapult project to advance the safe and open use of the airspace, and look forward to bringing our global experience to enable a scalable and low cost UTM architecture that can support the volume and diversity of unmanned aviation,” said James Ryan Burgess, Wing CEO

Wing was selected through open competition based on its global experience in developing UTM technologies that are open-access, low-cost and easy to deploy across multiple airports, cities and countries while utilizing UTM standards that will enable a globally compatible traffic management system.

“Wing’s approach to drone traffic management is built on our experience as a commercial operator and, through that, a learned understanding that a one-size fits all UTM model will not meet the diverse and growing needs of the drone industry,” said Reinaldo Negron, head of UTM at Wing. “The future of air traffic management will require an open and scalable infrastructure that allows many industry providers to participate. This will drive the continued development of innovative services that meets the needs of users and enable the entire industry to thrive.”

Over the past two years, Wing has successfully supported the development of an open UTM framework in Australia, Europe and the United States. This framework has been deployed with the Civilian Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), the government body that regulates Australian aviation safety, and, as announced earlier this year, will be deployed in France through a partnership with DSNA, the French airspace authority. The end state is an air traffic management ecosystem that is open and flexible enough to support the volume and diversity of unmanned aviation.

“Australia, Europe and the United States have made significant progress on UTM by taking an open approach that relies on industry-wide collaboration. We are encouraged to see CPC drive modern solutions that align to UK digital best practices; this will speed the time to UTM implementation from years to just months, and at significantly lower cost.” said Negron.

Since 2018, the CPC Open-Access UTM project has worked with various industry partners to build consensus on a drone traffic management system. Wing joins the project to develop the framework for an open UTM ecosystem that will allow airspace authorities to digitally and automatically share data with drone operators through verified third party applications, known as UTM Service Providers (UTMSPs). UTMSPs will also be able to share data, as needed, with each other.

An open UTM ecosystem provides drone operators with choice when selecting a traffic management tool to meet their specific needs for planning and conducting safe flights. Every UTMSP will share data as needed so that all drone operators have the information they need to safely share the airspace.

The Catapult project will support UTMSPs including AiRXOS (part of GE Aviation), Altitude Angel, ANRA Technologies, and Collins Aerospace. In the future, this framework can scale to include others as the needs of airspace users continue to diversify.

“We welcome the expertise that Wing will bring to our project team, who will together build and demonstrate a world leading Open-Access UTM ecosystem in the UK. The UK already has a vibrant and growing technology base as shown in previous project phases, and will be strengthened through international collaboration, giving UK companies access to new opportunities.

The key underlying principle of the proposed UTM system is its open nature – that is, open to multiple businesses and stakeholders, between whom data can be exchanged, to foster an innovative ecosystem that encourages businesses to deliver innovative services which safely opens the airspace for the commercial and societal exploitation of drone technology,” said Mark Westwood, Connected Places Catapult CTO.

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