Drones Connected Places Catapult

Enabling unmanned aircraft traffic management

A new report from Connected Places Catapult explores the steps the UK has taken to be at the forefront of commercial drone development and identifies those yet to be taken to remain in the global race towards unmanned traffic management.

There is a huge global opportunity for countries that can successfully accommodate commercial drone operations, it’s thought the sector could be worth £127bn globally. Unmanned traffic management is recognised as a key enabler to address the safe and efficient integration of unmanned vehicles into the airspace.

The UK drone sector is forecast to evolve a range of potential applications and business models in the coming years. Applications already in use are visual line of sight (VLOS) inspections, which are substantially reducing costs of asset inspections and removing people from harm’s way.The oil and gas, agriculture, power, rail and even search and rescue industries are employing drones to boost productivity, accuracy and coverage.

Government and industry are committed to maintaining safe national airspace to which all users, including the unmanned aircraft community, are able to have routine, fair and equitable access. UTM addresses many of the airspace integration requirements for drone operations, therefore, it requires a coordinated approach across the UTM and unmanned aircraft system stakeholder community to deliver an ecosystem that will ultimately enable the industry to capitalise on the market opportunities presented by drones.

The report by Connected Places Catapult, a government-backed policy innovation agency, provides a summary of the developed open-access UTM framework and defines the future direction around which industry and regulators can openly engage with each other to explore how UTM may be trialled, de-risked and matured.Ajay Modha, principal technologist at Connected Places Catapult and author of the report, explains: “There is a need for the community to come together around a common vision for success. With UTM, the aviation industry can collaboratively deliver safer drone operations in different sectors and assure routine operations. Thus, one view of success is UTM enabling the wide-ranging deployment of drone services in UK industry.

“The key enabler is to realise unmanned aircraft traffic management in the UK is to demonstrate and prove both the philosophy and technology, this report is an open invitation to the drone industry to participate and move the concept forward.”

Download the full report

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