Two huge UTM tests involving NASA just wrapped up, and they involved more than 100 participants, including private companies, public safety agencies and elected officials. It’s a signal that UTM (short for UAS Traffic Management) is on the path for implementation — which is a big win for the drone industry that has long called for a system of air traffic control for drones in order to get wide-scale drone industry ready for takeoff.
The UTM tests with NASA, overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration also served as the sort of finale to the second phase of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management Pilot Program (UTM/UPP). The virtual demonstrations were done in partnership with two test site’s from that pilot program: the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership and the New York UAS Test Site.
Tests were held over the span of two days. The Virginia tests on Oct. 28 included big drone companies including AirMap, AiRXOS, ANRA Technologies, and Wing (which is the drone-focused, sister company of Google). Shortly after on Nov. 9, the New York UTM test, held in coordination with the Griffiss International Airport, included tech from AiRXOS, ANRA Technologies, AX Enterprize, and OneSky.
The recent UTM test results will be used as “a proof of concept for UTM capabilities and serve as the basis for policy considerations, standards development and the implementation of a UTM system,” according to a statement from the FAA.
Among the capabilities being tested in the UTM tests were technologies and data to validate remote identification standards, UAS volume reservations to notify drone operators of emergencies, and tech that would secure information exchanges between the FAA, industry and authorized users
One of the companies that participated in both days of testing was ANRA Technologies, which is a UAS service supplier.
“These tests showcased the technical readiness of capabilities that can act as foundational blocks for supporting beyond visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations ranging from FIMS prototype, remote identification, and in-flight separation from other aircraft in high-density airspace,” said Amit Ganjoo, CEO of ANRA Technologies.
The two test sites that hosted the UTM tests — Northern Plains UAS Test Site and the Virginia Tech, Mid Atlantic Aviation Partnership — were selected in April 2020 as Phase 2 members of the FAA’s pilot program (phase 2 was designed to test UTM, while phase 1 focused on testing the exchange of flight data among drone pilots, and generating an emergency “no-fly zone” for drones).
The FAA put out an official video highlighting the two UTM tests:
“The demonstrations will help move us closer to safe beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operations,” said Pamela Whitley, the FAA’s acting assistant administrator for NextGen. “Flight testing UTM capabilities in high-density airspace will help us develop policy for safely and efficiently integrating drones into our national airspace.”