Austria’s air traffic control agency, Austro Control, is relying on its longtime tech partner Frequentis to prepare a new Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system that will fully integrate drone flights into the nation’s broader airspace by early 2023.
Austro Control and Vienna-based Frequentis are working on a UTM platform that will permit fast and full communication of data between air traffic controllers and drones, and provide automated functionality in processing requests to access restricted airspace. Frequentis, which specializes in building safety-critical communications and data platforms, won the project following a public tender process to construct Austria’s new UTM system that wrapped up in late April.
Austro Control says the future UTM asset will facilitate the activity of air traffic officials and drone pilots alike. It has been conceived to allow flight clearances for drones to be handled with optimized speed, safety, and efficiency objectives in mind, and offer a variety of functionalities permitting navigation workers to keep pace with the swiftly rising numbers of UAVs in Austrian skies.
“Drones are among the central topics of the future for Austro Control… (because) the possible applications in the commercial sector know hardly any limits,” said Austro Control’s managing director Valerie Hackl. “At the same time, there has been a veritable drone boom in the private sector for several years. These developments require a redefinition of airspace. With the traffic management system, we will make drone flying in Austria even safer in the future.”
Using Frequentis’ cloud-based UTM solution, future communication between drone pilots and Austro Control will be entirely digitized and automated.
The first stage of the rollout will enable the exchange of UAV flight plans and fast authorization of operation restricted airspaces. In the second, drone identification and warnings of craft approaching restricted zones will become automatic, in accordance with European Union rules being phased in.
“The new UTM drone traffic management system is paving the way for an ecosystem that meets the increasing demand for drone flights in a regulated airspace, thanks to the possibility to embed a wide range of services and the connection of additional user groups, such as blue light organizations,” explains Norbert Haslacher, CEO Frequentis, which has been active in designing and testing UAV systems in Europe. “We are pleased to implement this forward-thinking project together with our long-standing partner Austro Control.”
Austro Control says critical features that will be gradually implemented as development of the UTM platform progresses include an intuitive application for air traffic controllers – and a mobile app for drone pilots – enabling the real-time establishment of airspace rules and restrictions, review of flight plans, and access authorization for drone pilots. It will also offer warnings of airspaces that are closed – even at short notice.