ATM Modernization, Unmanned

Switzerland Connects Drone Operators to ATM with Nationwide System

By Brian Garrett-Glaser | August 6, 2019
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An AirMap UTM Dashboard at Geneva Airport monitoring manned and unmanned traffic. Photo: AirMap

Switzerland is a step closer to rolling out an unmanned traffic management system nationwide.

A partnership between Swiss ANSP Skyguide and airspace intelligence provider AirMap, has led to the deployment of a flight information management system (FIMS) for drones. The FIMS is a cloud-based data exchange hub allowing unmanned service providers to connect with and receive information from Skyguide’s ATM systems.

Participating unmanned service providers connect to the FIMS to support drone operators with airspace information, directives and real-time traffic, while feeding drone flight information back to air traffic controllers, safely integrating unmanned operations into low-altitude airspace. Air traffic controllers are able to view UAS flight plans and flight activity in their airspace, as well as manage authorization requests, via UTM dashboards that draw data from the FIMS.

Beginning earlier this year, Skyguide and AirMap kicked off a live market trial of the FIMS system, through which over 200 operators have used a mobile app to plan their operations and request automated authorization to fly in controlled airspace near Lugano and Geneva airports.

“The FIMS covers the entire country and UAS service providers can feed into the system, but only Lugano and Geneva can currently provide flight authorizations through Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), a spokesperson for AirMap told Avionics. “The goal is to be fully operational by early 2020 by integrating all other air traffic control locations nationwide.”

A diagram showing the basic UTM concept being deployed in Switzerland. Photo: AirMap

FIMS is designed as an open system, accessible by any unmanned service provider via an application programmable interface in order to foster an open marketplace for drone services.

This rollout is a major milestone in Europe’s U-space project, which is often referred to as unmanned traffic management (UTM) in the United States.

“The Swiss U-space FIMS is a critical building block toward full UTM implementation in Switzerland,” said Klaus Meier, Skyguide Chief Technology Officer. “Following the creation of SUSI, the Swiss U-space Implementation framework designed by FOCA to build an open UTM ecosystem in Switzerland, we are delighted to announce the availability of the FIMS open interfaces to connect Skyguide with multiple UAS Service Providers.”

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As of March, partners in Switzerland’s U-space Implementation (SUSI) include Skyguide, AirMap, Swisscom, Involi, Wing, Auterion, Altitude Angel, Flarm Technology, Aurora Swiss Aerospace and Orbitalize.

The Swiss U-space “can be seen as a foundation for air traffic management for [urban air mobility], where there will be large numbers of daily eVTOL flights carrying people over short distances in dense, urban low-altitude airspace,” AirMap co-founder and chairman Ben Marcus told Avionics.

“Like what is happening right now in Switzerland, UAM will require a complete, real-time view of low-altitude airspace and digital coordination among operators, authorities, and other manned and unmanned aircraft,” Marcus said. “As each new UTM capability is deployed, we are incrementally unlocking capabilities necessary for UAM.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect new comments from AirMap on urban air mobility.

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