Big reveals at Airspace World 2024 change the game for European drone pilots

The annual European drone extravaganza, Airspace World 2024, has wrapped, leaving attendees buzzing with the latest advancements in UAV technology.

From safety upgrades to revolutionary regulations, this year’s event promised a glimpse into the future of drone operations. Held from March 19 through March 21, 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland, the event offered an opportunity for all sorts of companies to reveal fresh partnerships and product launches across all sorts of aspects of aviation. In fact, this year’s event brought together 200 exhibitors and 7,000 attendees from across 140 countries.

But what exactly are the biggest takeaways from Airspace World 2024 for drone pilots? In general, it’s all about unmanned traffic management (UTM). Or, as most people call it in Europe: U-Space. We rounded up four of the biggest developments and product launches from Airspace World 2024 that European drone pilots (and anyone, really) should know about:

Another U.K. airport deploys easy drone request system

Leeds Bradford Airport, a major hub in northern England, announced its plan to deploy Altitude Angel’s Approval Services Platform. This platform will digitally manage the authorization process for drone flights near the airport, expediting permissions and enhancing safety for drone operators working in this controlled airspace.

In short, drone operators — and in the future, eVTOL pilots — will be able to request and pay for operations within the airport’s airspace digitally and at the touch of a button. Here’s how it works:

  1. Drone operators send Altitude Angel a set of information about their flight.
  2. From there, the Approval Services platform enables Altitude Angel to quickly assess and decide whether the drone pilot can execute their flight (or if they need to request an amendment to the flight plan before it can be approved).

The particular location of Leeds Bradford Airport could also make it a critical player in the drone request system.

“Surrounded by a number of towns, villages and industrial estates, the airport has been dealing with an increasing number of requests to fly within the FRZ from both commercial and recreational drone operators, said Jamie Babbin, Leeds Bradford Airport Operations Manager.

ility will serve as a crucial platform for developing and refining drone technologies specifically designed for safe and efficient operation within U-spaces, the designated airspace for low-altitude, low-risk drones.

Major air traffic control manager incorporates UTM

Martin Rolfe, NATS, CEO & Richard Parker, Altitude Angel, CEO and founder

That’s not the only big piece of news to come out of Altitude Angel over the past week. NATS Services, which is the commercial arm of the United Kingdom’s leading air navigation service provider, announced a partnership with the Altitude Angel at Airspace World Expo. With it, the global leader in unified traffic management (UTM) will team up with the creators of that 165-mile UK drone superhighway, in a partnership that could have huge implications for the way the sky is managed for new airspace users.

The deal will offer a comprehensive suite of UTM services, encompassing everything from flight authorization and traffic management to airspace awareness tools. Expect to see GuardianUTM Flight Approval Services being deployed at some NATS-controlled airports later in 2024, allowing for digitally managed UTM flight requests and approvals and enhanced situational awareness.

It also means that Altitude Angel will be able to more quickly roll out its ARROW technology. When fused with its GuardianUTM platform, ARROW detects and identifies all airspace users. That’s critical in enabling drones to fly BVLOS and share the airspace with crewed aviation — which is one of the hottest topics in drones lately, period.

U-space testing takes flight in Estonia

Photo courtesy of ANRA

Over in Estonia, UTM developments are going strong. Soon, expect a permanent UTM and U-space test center in the city of Tartu, built in partnership with the Estonian Aviation Academy (EAVA). EAVA is a state-owned, professional higher education institution. U-space is simply the European brand name for UTM.

Under the deal, ANRA Technologies (ANRA) and EAVA will jointly co-develop, manage, and operate the drone testing facility in an effort to promote the wide-scale development and deployment of drones for U-space implementation. EAVA will own the task of managing airspace and coordinating flight activities in multiple test sites near the airport and the city of Tartu. ANRA, which is a drone traffic management provider, will deliver the software to make it happen.

Expect the test center to be ready by the second half of 2024.

Dutch drone pilots get a flight planning upgrade

Good news for Dutch drone pilots! LVNL, the Netherlands Air Navigation Service Provider, collaborated with Altitude Angel to unveil the much-anticipated upgrade to their popular GoDrone flight planning tool.

Atitude Angel powers the airspace apps for a few countries in the U.K., such as the United Kingdom’s Drone Assist flight planning app. Over in the Netherlands, the version of Altitude Angel’s app is called GoDrone — and now, GoDrone 2.0.

GoDrone 2.0 boasts improved features and functionalities to the original app, which launched in the Netherlands in April 2020. Altitude Angel powers the app. The new version of GoDrone is set to roll out across both iOS and Android in Q2. Altitude Angel calls it “the most extensive update since the app was first launched.”

Updated features found in the GoDrone 2.0 app include:

  • Enhanced integrated flight planning
  • Advanced flight plan drawing tools
  • In-app approval services, which unlock the ability to request access to fly digitally in airspace such as an airport CTR
  • New map types, including satellite maps
  • More detailed information about ground hazards
  • A new area report feature, which gives you a simple-to-understand view of where you can fly safely, where you need to exercise caution or areas that are prohibited
  • An entirely new user interface

All that should make pre-flight planning and airspace authorization for drone operations in the Netherlands smoother than ever.

Did you attend Airspace World 2024? What were your top findings or takeaways? Share them in the comments below!

And if you really want to see more, check out the Airspace World 2024 photo recap from their official Instagram account, below:

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