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Imagine a scenario in which the operations of a recreational drone were disrupted as an emergency response drone was dispatched to investigate a possible fire. The recreational operator was notified through their chosen unmanned traffic management service provider (UTMSP) or their drone application, and was able to land their aircraft once notified. With the fire confirmed, a no fly zone was established in the area. The scenario continued with a local news drone, which was dispatched to cover the emergency situation, recognizing and deconflicting with that no-fly zone.

Drone traffic management is an important task taking into account the growing presence of drones in the urban airspace. In the UK, research suggests that there will be 75,000 commercial drones in operation by 2030. The UK Government’s Connected Places Catapult accelerator for cities, transport, and places, along with Wing and other industry partners shared the results of a six-month simulation of an “open-access” drone traffic management system. 

The demonstration successfully showcased the performance of unmanned aircraft executing tasks from emergency response to delivering groceries, sharing the sky safely with each other, and with larger aircraft.

Rather than relying on a centralized architecture — such as a traditional air traffic management system — the trials set out to demonstrate a federated system that leverages new technologies to achieve a safe, secure, and scalable system for drone traffic management. 

This approach follows the guidelines set by the UK Government for developing new technologies as laid out in the UK Technology Code of Practice. These guidelines include accessibility and inclusivity, use of open-source software and open standards, and a focus on privacy and security.

In the open ecosystem, multiple drone traffic management solution providers can operate simultaneously and in harmony with one another. Each provider applies to join the ecosystem, and once approved, can access and share airspace information and flight data with airspace authorities and one another. 

This data sharing is facilitated through a secure digital platform that doesn’t require human controllers to act as intermediaries. Additionally, by leveraging network remote identification (NET-RID) technology, the ecosystem enables third-party observers to identify nearby operators, bringing an unprecedented level of transparency to this new frontier of aviation.

The UK system underwent extensive testing in both virtual and live environments. 

This successful demonstration of the capabilities represents an exciting development for the drone industry, as reports. The example set by the UK Government to explore innovation beyond the vehicles we fly to the way we manage those vehicles could not come at a more hopeful time. Under the recently adopted U-space Regulation, EU governments have signaled their readiness to take on this challenge by establishing a harmonized framework that encourages UAS innovation and accelerates drone integration into European skies.