AirMap, the global UTM platform for safe, compliant and efficient drone operation, is an appreciated partner of the Amsterdam Drone Week. AirMap hosts several sessions in the content stream about Digital Infrastructure for U-Space. Sebastian Babiarz, Head of Strategic Business Development at AirMap displays his vision on the next steps in U-Space.
What will be your key message during Amsterdam Drone Week 2019?
“Amsterdam Drone Week is the perfect place for the drone industry to convene and discuss the big questions facing the creation of a shared U-Space and the future of autonomous flight in Europe under UAM. It’s an exciting time for our industry and for AirMap: initial EU-wide drone regulations are in place, and we have the technological building blocks to make U-Space a reality. Several EU countries are already beginning to implement U-Space, and enterprises across the region are realizing the major economic benefits they can reap by using drones.”
“AirMap invests heavily in developing the core technologies, platform and services support that underpins this robust and fast-growing ecosystem. Low-altitude airspace stakeholders need a common infrastructure that allows drones and other unmanned aerial systems to safely access the skies at scale. U-Space provides that shared foundation. At AirMap, we’re excited to work with our colleagues across the industry to foster an open, competitive drone landscape and make U-Space a reality in Europe.”
Why is it so important the UAS community will meet 4 – 6 December in Amsterdam?
“Bringing the UAS community together is essential because we get to grapple with the issues facing our industry and collaborate on building the future of autonomous flight. AirMap’s contribution to U-Space is extensive: we are a leading U-Space infrastructure and service provider in the region, we currently serve as a U-Space provider to four European Network of U-Space Demonstrator projects, and we work with EU regulators to support the development of U-Space regulations. Amsterdam Drone Week is the leading European UAS conference, so it fosters the perfect environment for engaging with our partners from the European Commission, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU), and EUROCONTROL, along with Member State and local regulators and industry representatives.”
EASA is working on their ‘U-Space-opinion’, what is - according to AirMap - most important in the discussion about how U-Space should be defined?
“AirMap supports comprehensive U-space regulation and an open, interconnected, and competitive drone economy. We were happy to see those points reflected in EASA’s draft U-Space opinion and look forward to seeing how the opinion matures as U-Space stakeholders offer their input.”
“Ultimately, a U-Space will enable safe UAS operations at scale, boosting the European drone economy and giving enterprises the opportunity to reap the economic benefits that drones offer. Because of its robust safety, security, and privacy framework, U-Space will likely also catalyze public acceptance of drones, especially as they’re put to work for public good. All this requires a viable drone ecosystem that leverages modern technologies, information sharing, and automation, and that is underpinned by a robust regulatory framework.”
“In order to make that happen, AirMap actively works with industry partners and authorities to foster interoperable innovation and build a scalable and sustainable U-Space infrastructure. The work we’ve done in Switzerland with Skyguide and other industry players is a great example: as part of FOCA’s Swiss U-Space Implementation (SUSI) framework, we recently deployed a nationwide Flight Information Management System (FIMS). A FIMS is a cloud-based, interoperable platform that distributes airspace information, directives, and real-time traffic from Skyguide’s ATM system to drone operators via a network of USSPs. Participating USSPs connect to a FIMS using open interfaces, which allows them to provide U-Space services to drone operators and supports them in meeting their regulatory and operational requirements. The Swiss U-Space FIMS is designed from its inception to support multiple USSPs and shows how interoperability broadens the playing field and supports a vivid drone economy.”
Can (or should) ATM and UTM integrate? Or should they be separated?
“ATM and UTM evolved to meet the needs of manned and unmanned aviation, which use the skies in radically different ways. But UAV use has proliferated wildly over the last few years. There are now millions of registered drones -far more than the total number of commercial aircraft worldwide. Both types of flight require a complete real-time airspace awareness, and for that reason, integration is essential. The skies have to be safe for all types of aircraft: planes, helicopters, drones, other UAVs, eVTOLs (the new flying taxis which will make Urban Air Mobility a reality), and even the aircraft we haven’t envisioned yet. The best way for that to happen is through the adoption of an integrated, digitized airspace system that meets the needs of all types of flight and keeps the skies open and safe for everyone.”
How does (according to AirMap) the ideal U-Space look like?
“The ideal U-Space is a comprehensive collection of modern technologies, regulations and services that facilitates full drone enablement. It integrates human operators and information technology to automatically manage UAS operations. It’s open, interoperable, connected, and facilitates a competitive drone economy. To make that vision a reality, AirMap is highly involved in contributing to the development of industry standards for drone enablement. For example, we participated in SESAR’s recent GEOSAFE demonstration project in France. Together with SPH Engineering, Aeromapper, and other partners, we demonstrated the three tiers of geofencing aligned with U-Space capability levels. We also recently participated in a demonstration of the ASTM RemoteID standard in partnership with the Swiss U-Space Implementation (SUSI) team. It was a collaborative effort between the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), Skyguide, the Swiss Air Navigation Service Provider, and industry stakeholders including ANRA Technologies, Involi, Orbitalize, and Wing. Together we demonstrated several remote ID use cases involving multiple drone operations and Swiss federal and local law enforcement agencies. The demonstration showed how relevant authorities can identify drone operations while still protecting the operator’s right to privacy. These projects move us closer to an open and federated U-Space built on well-defined and interoperable interfaces.”
Who should be responsible/governing U-Space?
“Because U-Space deals with aviation safety, it requires government oversight. In the European Union, that responsibility is shared by authorities at both the national and supranational levels. EASA and the European Commission are currently working on U-Space regulations which will guide Member State authorities in creating their nation’s concept of operations (ConOps). Although the ConOps will foster a uniform, harmonized implementation of U-Space in Europe, it must also be flexible enough to integrate regional specificities. Proper governance will make that sovereignty possible: each Member State will operate under the same U-Space principles but will tailor the system to their own governance model. Much like how each nation currently sets its own road traffic rules.”
How important are (global) standards for U-Space? And what should those standards look like?
“Harmonized standards are essential for proper U-Space enablement: they keep the airspace safe, support interoperability, and make cross-border operations possible. Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs), Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), U-Space Service Providers (USSP), and industrial stakeholders must work together to develop best practices, which will ultimately lead to commonly agreed-upon standards. Those standards must be performance-based and stay technology agnostic. AirMap has partnered with ANSPs, regulators, standards bodies, and its competitors around the globe to safely integrate drones into airspace. We are an active contributor to both technology and regulatory bodies around the world, including FAA, NASA, EC, EASA, SESAR JU, JARUS, ASTM, EUROCAE, CANSO and GUTMA.”
In Enschede the VUTURA project proved last month that different U-Space service providers can work together and that it is possible to grant priority to certain drones over other drones or aircrafts. How do you determine who gets priority over others?
“That’s a good question - one that’s been highlighted in EASA’s U-Space draft opinion and will ultimately be clarified by the European Commission’s final U-Space regulations. Whatever the final rules on priority are, executing them will require that the U-Space architecture facilitate open data exchange between all stakeholders. The Swiss U-Space ConOps provides an excellent example of the robust architecture required for a U-Space, including FIMS and InterUSSP.”
“The VUTURA project and SESAR’s Gulf of Finland U-Space project helped us to demonstrate that while U-Space prioritization can be executed, it requires integration of U-Space services with the UAS in order to provide continual airspace awareness to the pilot, and ultimately with the UAS itself in order to support automated missions. As an industry, we need to continue exploring the question of prioritization so we can create and implement appropriate U-Space procedures.”
“Another critical aspect to facilitating an open data exchange is geo-awareness. AirMap continuously invests in geo-data partnerships to provide the best airspace intelligence services possible. Geo-awareness is crucial to determining static and dynamic restricted zones and for setting geofences, which themselves serve as a prioritization mechanism.”
Is there enough space in U-Space for different service providers? I.o.w. How do you manage that all those different parties work together and speak the same language?
“The short answer is yes: there will definitely be enough room in U-Space for multiple service providers. We believe that the drone market should be open and competitive. The key to that is interoperability: our systems need to talk to each other, and we need to make sure that drone operators, no matter which U-Space platform they’re using, are equipped with a true digital twin of the airspace. That’s why standards-setting is so important: it gives us a shared baseline and makes the airspace safe for all.”
Should U-Space be a global set of rules, regulations and agreements? Or can they differ per region or continent?
“Our view is that globally recognized standards and common-sense regulations are the main ingredients to enable safe, secure and compliant drone operations in the global airspace. Although U-Space must be a globally harmonized digital platform, it must also be flexible so that individual nations and regions can implement and operate it according to their own rules and regulations, and operators can safely complete cross-border flights. We have to strike the right balance between global standards and national or local implementation needs.”