Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management (UTM): Safely Enabling UAS Operations in Low-Altitude Airspace
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Currently, there is no established infrastructure to enable and safely manage the widespread use of low-altitude airspace and UAS flight operations. Given this, and understanding that the FAA faces a mandate to modernize the present air traffic management system through computer automation and significantly reduce the number of air traffic controllers by FY 2020, the FAA maintains that a comprehensive, yet fully automated UAS traffic management (UTM) system for low-altitude airspace is needed. The concept of UTM is to begin by leveraging concepts from the system of roads, lanes, stop signs, rules and lights that govern vehicles on the ground today. Building on its legacy of work in air traffic management (ATM), NASA is working with industry to develop prototype technologies for a UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system that would evolve airspace integration procedures for enabling safe, efficient low-altitude flight operations that autonomously manage UAS operating in an approved low-altitude airspace environment. UTM is a cloud-based system that will autonomously manage all traffic at low altitudes to include UASs being operated beyond visual line of sight of an operator. UTM would thus enable safe and efficient flight operations by providing fully integrated traffic management services such as airspace design, corridors, dynamic geofencing, severe weather and wind avoidance, congestion management, terrain avoidance, route planning re-routing, separation management, sequencing spacing, and contingency management. UTM removes the need for human operators to continuously monitor aircraft operating in approved areas. NASA envisions concepts for two types of UTM systems. The first would be a small portable system, which could be moved between geographical areas in support of operations such as precision agriculture and public safety. The second would be a Persistent system, which would support low-altitude operations in an approved area by providing continuous automated coverage. Both would require persistent communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) coverage to track, ensure, and monitor conformance. UTM is creating an airspace management tool that allows the ATM system to accommodate the number of UAS that will operate in the low altitude airspace. The analogy is just because we have a car, whether its autonomous or someone is driving, does not diminish the need for a road or road signs or rules of the road.
JIFX 16-3 Joint Interagency Field Experimentation; 9-13 May 2016; Camp Roberts, CA; United States
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