Commercial BVLOS Drone Service uses FLARM for Traffic Avoidance

Swiss Post, the Insel hospital group, and drone manufacturer Matternet have started a commercial BVLOS drone transport service in the Swiss capital city of Berne. The drones are connecting the Insel university hospital and Tiefenau hospital, located 4 km (2.5 miles) apart, carrying lab samples and urgently needed medication. The route is located entirely inside the controlled airspace around the city’s airport.

“When lab samples need to be transported as quickly as possible from A to B, every minute counts”, says Uwe E. Jocham, Insel’s CEO. The lab samples are currently transported by courier. For urgent cases, Insel uses a taxi.

All drones are equipped with our FLARM traffic information and collision warning system. Our technology is standard in most aircraft operating in European airspace and allows both manned and unmanned aircraft to see and stay well clear of each other at any time. In addition, it enables the drones to be identified and tracked at all times, a key requirement of U-Space for the safe and efficient integration of drones into airspace shared with manned aviation.

In the near future, Swiss Post together with medical laboratory Zentrallabor ZLZ and Matternet will start another commercial BVLOS drone transport service above Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city. The service will connect ZLZ’s main medical laboratory with the Hirslanden Im Park hospital. The routing crosses the lake of Zurich and is partially in uncontrolled airspace.

The Swiss Civil Aviation Authority FOCA has been involved in the project, has inspected the drone and its safety components, defined the legal conditions for flying it, and granted approval for the flights in Berne and Zurich.

FlarmNet is undergoing maintenance

FlarmNet, where pilots can register their FLARM devices to be identifiable by other pilots, is currently undergoing maintenance. The improved FlarmNet will be released shortly.

New customer portal available

We have recently released the new and long-awaited customer portal. It can be found after logging in to flarm.com under “My Account”, which you can find at the top of the page. The customer portal will be your centerpoint for all things FLARM related. If you have recently e.g. updated your obstacle database, you might have noticed that you no longer receive an email with the files. Instead, license files are downloaded directly from the Order Completed page and are also made accessible from the customer portal.

Under the new tab “Devices” under “My Account”, you can find all devices, for which you have previously purchased a feature license (including an obstacle database). Licenses for a device are only shown for the user that purchased the license. If a license for your device was purchased by a dealer/installer, you will not see the license.

You can download purchased license files by clicking the links in the right column. If you don’t have the latest obstacle database for a certain device, there is a link to add it to the cart. If the device has never had an obstacle database, a link will instead take you to the webshop.

New devices are added to this list as soon as you purchase a license. Devices can also be added manually by clicking the “Add device” button at the bottom of the page.

Under the “Orders” tab you can see a list of all your orders. We have added a button for each order, with which you can download a ZIP file with all licenses for that order.

One last new feature: On the product pages in the webshop, you can now select a device that you own, so you don’t have to enter the data manually. This is especially useful if you purchase several licenses for one device, or if you have several devices from which you want to purchase the obstacle database update. The list does not show devices for which you already own the license in question (or it’s already in the car).

We will continuously improve the customer portal and add new features.

Open FLARM UAS eID Standard published

Upcoming regulations will require unmanned aerial systems (UAS, drones) to have remote electronic identification (eID) and tracking capabilities. The UAS thereby broadcasts a unique identifier along with its position by means of radio, enabling detection, identification, and tracking of the vehicle. Reliable identification is an essential element of airspace and traffic management, and thus a key pillar in U-space foundation services. The benefits include added security, higher safety standards, increased accountability, and easier access to airspace.

The open FLARM UAS eID standard (download) builds on the proven FLARM protocol with over 35.000 installations in manned aircraft worldwide. Based on vehicle-to-vehicle radio technology, it offers unparalleled scalability while not requiring any infrastructure or expensive cellular modems. Secure signatures based on public-key cryptography offer a significant advantage over other proposals. The standard implements key requirements of the EASA, FAA and national regulations drafts. It is designed to be simple to implement, cheap to build, easy to test, free of licenses. Manufacturers can use existing radio hardware, or inexpensively add the required COTS hardware to start using the standard.

For fast time-to-market, we offer development kits specifically for UAS as well as a reference design for eID. Contact us for details.

About Drones

While commercial applications for drones are on the rise, most drones today are small and operate in the close vicinity of the human pilot and under direct line of sight. They are restricted to flying low and well clear of airports, urban areas, and airspace used by manned traffic. Future commercial applications will require large-scale operation in shared airspace, well beyond (visual) line of sight. UAV systems will be highly automated with minimal interaction by human operators. The vehicles will be larger, faster, heavier, and more intelligent, with the capability to resolve complex situations autonomously.

Business models, technology, and regulation all have to evolve under significant pressure. At the same time, traditional airspace users and the general public have significant interests to be taken into account: Safety in the air and on the ground, security and resilience to malicious intents, full accountability for all users of airspace, and affordability by means of a thriving, competitive ecosystem.

For these conflicting interests to meet, UAS will have to fulfil even stricter standards than we have in manned aviation. Reliable detect-and-avoid is a core technology needed for autonomous UAS operation. Human pilots are not capable of visually identifying even a UAV of reasonable size, thus the latter has to give way, always.

About FLARM

The FLARM system was invented by active pilots and launched through a crowd-funding campaign in 2004. It has since gained fast acceptance and high penetration in the entire aeronautical community and is known as a safe, efficient and affordable technology. Today, a broad range of solutions for manned and unmanned aviation is available. Solutions include electronic conspicuity, secure e-identification, traffic sensors, multi-sensor fusion, autonomous detect-and-avoid, ground tracking infrastructure and services, data uplink, IFF, and air risk assessment consultancy.

Our technology is used in many manned aircraft and rotorcraft, and works anytime, anywhere and independent of infrastructure. FLARM is the most popular cooperative traffic avoidance solution in the lower airspace. In Europe, over half of all registered aircraft have a combined FLARM OUT (transmit) and IN (receive) product onboard. FLARM offers the smallest integrated transceiver for aviation, native deconfliction for all traffic sources, thus enabling cost-effective collision avoidance.

Find drone-specific products here.

 

MicroPilot and FLARM’s Autonomous Sense & Avoid System

MicroPilot has successfully integrated FLARM’s Sense and Avoid system with its autopilot, granting clients a reliable autonomous collision avoidance option for fully autonomous UAV operations.

With any form of autonomous vehicle, a key concern is the ability to safely avoid collisions without human intervention. A sense and avoid system allows a UAV to do exactly that, dramatically reducing operational risks and the need for human monitoring. FLARM is a traffic awareness and collision avoidance technology used by manned aircraft and UAVs. When integrated with MicroPilot’s autopilot, the system alerts the autopilot of nearby aircraft, along with their velocity, altitude and future trajectory. Using this information, the autopilot decides how to avoid the other aircraft, autonomously preventing a collision without a single input from a human operator.

With airspace becoming increasingly crowded and UAVs becoming more popular, a reliable sense and avoid system isn’t going to be merely convenient, but a necessity, especially for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and other autonomous operations. This new system should give operators the confidence to use their UAVs to the full extent of their abilities.

“FLARM has been in use for over a decade helping manned aircraft avoid midair collisions,” says FLARM “We are very happy to see that UAVs are the next type of vehicle that benefit from FLARM, and that UAVs are becoming visible to manned aircraft.” With the MicroPilot autopilot combined with FLARM’s advanced sense and avoid system, UAV designers will be better able to market their larger and longer-range UAVs with a reliable autonomous system of collision avoidance, and operators will likewise feel more comfortable conducting long range BVLOS operations where human intervention is more difficult. Combined, this will further the utility and viability of UAVs and bring them much closer to their full potential.

World’s first regular and commercial drone transport inside a city, using FLARM

Swiss Post, the EOC hospital group and drone manufacturer Matternet tested a drone service between two hospitals in Lugano for the first time in March 2017. Now the project is moving into the next test phase. As the drone transport tests in the spring proved successful in terms of safety, practicality and reliability, actual laboratory samples or urgently needed medication will now be transported by drone between the two hospitals for the first time. The partners are aiming to operate regular drone transport for both hospitals from the summer of 2018. On the basis of the experience gained from the test operation in March, the FLARM system was added to the drone, among other changes. The drone emits a signal using this traffic information and collision avoidance system to make the drone visible to other aircraft. But the drone also receives signals from other aircraft or drones and can react to these.

More information

https://www.post.ch/en/about-us/company/media/press-releases/2017/further-drone-flights-in-lugano

Matternet/Mercedes Transport Drones over Zurich City Equipped with FLARM

Mercedes-Benz, drone systems developer Matternet and online marketplace siroop have started a pilot project in Zurich to test a drone-based system for on-demand delivery of e-commerce goods. The pilot project, which started with first trials on September 25, represents a significant milestone for autonomous aerial systems: it is the first time that extensive beyond-line-of sight drone operations are taking place in a major urban area to test a fully-automated e-commerce drone network. The development of the overall system uses an iterative approach and is based on early testing and continuous optimization.

During the course of the pilot project, customers will be able to order selected products from online marketplace siroop that are suitable for transport by a Matternet drone, such as consumer electronics and other e-commerce items weighing up to two kilograms.

The operation has been authorized by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) following the JARUS-SORA methodology. Safety is the guiding principle during the pilot, which will run for seven hours per day, five days a week in favorable weather conditions only. Matternet drones are integrated in the Swiss airspace system using the same FLARM sense and avoid system used by helicopter operators and other users of the lower part of the airspace.

The Matternet M2 quadcopters used in the pilot can carry packages of up to two kilograms over distances of up to 20 kilometers. In recent months, the integrated system has been continuously refined and tested extensively in preparation for operation in an urban environment.

Media Coverage

https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/28/mercedes-benz-kicks-off-drone-delivery-pilot-in-zurich/

https://www.technologyreview.com/the-download/608978/delivery-drones-are-using-vans-as-roving-parcel-hubs-in-switzerland/

FLARM Firmware v6.40 released

Firmware version 6.40 has been released for all FLARM devices. It introduces intuitive obstacle warning behavior, full antenna diversity, a redesigned range analyzer, and a supplementary privacy option. These features have been requested by pilots and improve both the user experience and flight safety. The firmware is available for all PowerFLARM, Classic FLARM, and FLARM-interoperable devices, and can be downloaded for free from the website of the device manufacturer. For end-user devices built by FLARM Technology, it’s available here.

Fixed obstacles like power lines and cable cars receive a lateral buffer, adding width to the object similar to antennas. Flying parallel to such objects now yields more consistent warning behavior. Alarms are now suppressed better when circling or turning in proximity of an obstacle. The data port now transmits a unique obstacle ID for improved future processing by smart displays, e.g. to suppress repetitive alarms. These features are available on PowerFLARM products only, and operate with any valid obstacle database. The latest database including an interactive visualization is available here.

PowerFLARM devices contain two radio antenna ports: “FLARM A” and “FLARM B”, with the latter being activated by applying a license (RFB). This update adds full symmetric diversity (transmit and receive) to “FLARM B” when the RFB license is active (does not apply to North America). This increases the protection around the aircraft in all directions. The RFB license for PowerFLARM Core devices can be purchased in the webshop. Existing RFB licenses automatically enable the new behavior. PowerFLARM Portable devices do not require a license.

The online Range Analyzer tool has been completely redesigned. It now features a side view for 3D assessment of installation performance. Simultaneous upload of multiple files now allows for a more comprehensive and reliable analysis. Full independent receiver diagnostics of both radio channels is now possible for dual antenna setups, helping to verify and optimize installations. Also refer to Section “Safety Equipment Requires Care and Maintenance”.

To accommodate increased privacy needs, the random radio ID option is introduced on all devices (except first-generation F4). It can be selected by setting the ICAO 24-bit address to “0” (zero) in the online configuration tool. With this option set, the characteristic ID used for message broadcasting is randomly generated at each power-up, i.e. typically once per day. Enabling this setting is however discouraged, as it renders Search and Rescue (SAR) and other functionality impractical. It is not possible to activate random ID if the aircraft has a Mode-S transponder (which already transmits the ICAO address of the aircraft).

Downloading or using firmware 6.40 is subject to the updated End-User License Agreement. Additional information can be found in the Release Notes on the firmware download page.