Can ATM/UTM learn from autonomous vehicles?

ATM recently had the opportunity to speak with Auterion to learn more about their project work to leverage tools used in the world of autonomous driving that can be transitioned into aviation.  More specifically drones.

The idea is that the concept of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications for autonomous vehicles could be leveraged to enable drone-to-drone (D2D) communications.  At the simplest level there are similar risks between cars and drones.  The safety required to operate autonomously while avoiding other autonomous vehicles, manned vehicles and fixed objects.  Being able to leverage this technology could enable cost effective safety solutions for drone manufacturers to incorporate into their enterprise drones.  In July of this year, Auterion announced partnership with NXP to trial these concepts.  NXP is well known for its work in the connected car industry.

Another topic coming across from other industries such as telecommunications, IoT and automotive is cybersecurity.  Drones are now “software-defined”.  Think of this along the lines of a flying smartphone.  How often do you update applications on your smartphone from the cloud? Depending on your smartphone this could be daily.  Now think about the security implications of over-the-air updates to a drone, from the cloud, via a 4G/5G connection.  This software is actually controlling the drone and keeping it and the surrounding aircraft safe.  Cybersecurity becomes a big topic.  Also, similar to over-the-air updates in the automotive industry.

Auterion uses open source technologies and is working with various industry standards bodies to drive cross industry standards that will allow for future development with open standards in the drone industry.  This will help the industry to grow in a consistent way and ensure alignment across manufacturers for future autonomy.

Beginning in 2019 and running through the end of 2020 is the City-ATM project taking place in Germany with the involvement of DFS.  The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and its partners in the City Air Traffic Management (City-ATM) project conducted successful flight tests around the Kohlbrand Bridge, near Hamburg, in late April 2019.  The purpose of these flights was to demonstrate how drones are already able to cooperate with one another. During the test, the drones demonstrated flying around a bridge with active shipping and road traffic in process.  DFS tracked their locations and progress along the route and was able to provide an integrated air situation display.

Technologies across industries continue to come closer together and it makes good sense to leverage lessons learned from one industry to the next.  Telecommunications, automotive and aviation sharing best practices is well aligned based on the evolution of technology in the first two that will now need to be incorporated in the latter.  Cloud, cybersecurity and software defined solutions are well on their way into aviation and will only continue to grow.