The Austrian aviation authority, Austro Control, has entered into a partnership with the specialist ICT company Frequentis to develop a digital air traffic control system for drones. In this way, the growing number of drone flights must be safely integrated into Austrian airspace as a prelude to U-space. The system will be operational in early 2023.
Unmanned Traffic Management
The number of drones in Austrian airspace is increasing. Automated air traffic management systems are needed to ensure that drones can also fly safely in the future. Austro Control has therefore opted to develop an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system that will be supplied by the company Frequentis, which specializes in aviation systems.
The new system offers benefits to both drone pilots and Austro Control air traffic controllers. The digital traffic management system ensures that flight clearances for drone flights will be handled faster, safer, and more efficiently in the future in areas where both manned and unmanned aircraft are active.
Communication completely digital
Frequentis’ cloud-based UTM solution completely digitizes communication between drone pilots and Austro Control. In the first phase of the project, the digital submission of flight plans and the issuance of clearances for flights in controlled airspace by air traffic control are on the agenda. Subsequently, in accordance with EU regulations currently being implemented, drone identification facilities and warnings for restricted zones will be activated.
The main features and services that will be introduced gradually in the coming years are:
- An intuitive application for air traffic controllers and a mobile application for drone pilots that enables the following tasks:
- establishment of airspace rules and restrictions,
- assessment of submitted flight plans, and
- give clearance to drone pilots.
- Provide warnings in the event of airspace closures (even short-term).
- Digitization of the previously manual approval of flights and with it a huge improvement in the service provided to drone pilots.
- The system should also enable new drone services so that drones can further contribute to Austria’s economy.
“Redefining the airspace”
“Drones are one of the central themes of the future for Austro Control. The possible applications in the commercial sector know hardly any boundaries. At the same time, there has been a true drone explosion in the private sector for several years now. These developments call for a redefinition of airspace. With the traffic management system, we will make flying drones in Austria even safer in the future,” says Austro Control Managing Director Valerie Hackl.
“The new UTM drone traffic management system paves the way for an ecosystem that meets the increasing demand for drone flights in controlled airspace. The system offers a wide range of services and allows for the connection of additional user groups, such as emergency services,” said Norbert Haslacher, CEO Frequentis.
Sort by U-space
With the introduction of the UTM system, Austria is one of the first EU member states ahead of the introduction of U-space. The first step is automating requests for and guiding drone flights in controlled airspace. Until now, this involved a lot of manual actions, which puts a significant brake on the growth of the Austrian drone sector. There is also such a bottleneck in the Netherlands, much to the frustration of many professional drone operators.
Drone pilots looking for more information on all aspects of unmanned aerial vehicles in Austria – from registration and drone licensing to flying drones – can visit the Austro Control drone portal: dronespace.at.
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