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Enabling Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management in the UK

London, UK – A new report from Connected Places Catapult’s explores the steps the UK has taken to be at the forefront of commercial drone development and identifies the steps yet to be taken in order to remain in the global race towards Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM).

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. UTM is recognised as a key enabler to address the safe and efficient integration of unmanned vehicles into the airspace.

The UK drone sector is projected to over the coming years, with increasingly capable technology, spawn a new range of potential applications and business models. Unlike several frequently hyped technologies, we are already realising a number of benefits from the application of drones, Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) inspections are substantially reducing costs of asset inspections and removing people from harm’s way; their use in oil and gas, agriculture, power, rail and even search and rescue, is amplifying productivity, accuracy and coverage in each of those areas. Compared to the possible commercial and societal benefits that drones have to offer, the market today, represents only the tip of the iceberg.

Government and industry are committed to maintaining a 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 UAS stakeholder community to deliver an ecosystem that will ultimately enable the industry to capitalise on the market opportunities presented by drones.

The report 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. This will support the development of both UTM technologies and the application of UTM, but also places the industry in a leading position. With the right focus and investment, the UK can be a true global leader.

Ajay Modha, Principal Technologist at Connected Places Catapult and report author 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.”

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