Swisscom Tests Smart Airspace Management for Drones Based on their LTE Network and FLARM

For the drone revolution to happen, applications first need to scale to be profitable, requiring a high level of automation. The largest obstacle for automation is the management of airspace: Allowing all manned and unmanned participant fair, efficient and safe access to airspace while maximizing capacity at low cost.

Traditional Air Traffic Control (ATC) struggles to provide this, with many of their processes being controlled by human operators. Clearly, new concepts are needed to achieve the scalability and automation that we need.

During the annual Innovation Week in summer 2018, Swisscom demonstrated a proof of concept that addresses the need for improving flight awareness in the lower airspace. The focus was on interoperability between legacy and new aircraft communication technologies. By aggregating multiple methods of connectivity, a much more detailed coverage of the airspace can be achieved. This concept can be seen as a supplement to the U-Space project recently announced by Skyguide, Switzerland’s Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP).

The following systems were incorporated into the solution:

  • FLARM, the leading traffic awareness and collision avoidance technology for General Aviation, light aircraft and UAVs. Over 35,000 manned aircraft and many UAVs are already equipped with FLARM and the number is rapidly increasing. The new FLARM eID standard was developed specifically for the needs of commercial UAV operators, allowing secure tracking and identification of UAVs.
  • ADS-B, a system used by large commercial airliners to make aircraft visible to ATC with high accuracy.
  • Swisscom’s LTE cellular network for connecting UAVs to U-Space and other infrastructure services, like ground receiver networks for FLARM and ADS-B.

Combining these data sources, a more complete picture of the airspace can be obtained and presented to the drone operator and U-Space service providers. The solution was successfully demonstrated to remotely detect a conflict provoked by an intruding aircraft, leading to automatic evasive action by the drone.

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