Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Centre release traffic management framework for drones

Bengaluru: India will onboard multiple public and private service providers for managing drone traffic in airspaces below 1,000 feet, as it moves forward with its plans to boost wider adoption of unmanned aircraft across sectors such as healthcare, logistics and agriculture in the next few years.

The recently released National Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) Policy Framework lays down guidelines for fully automated tracking of drones in Indian airspace, alongside the integrations between traffic management entities, the government, air traffic controllers and law enforcement agencies, among others.

“The number of unmanned aircraft operating in the Indian airspace is expected to increase multifold. The interplay between manned and unmanned aircraft has to be managed with utmost attention to global safety norms,” the policy document reads. “India's UAS Traffic Management systems shall play a vital role in doing so.”

The government will float a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the purpose of onboarding UTMs, which will also include an evaluation process. Selected providers will be awarded regions to set up their UTM services, and will be allowed to scale up their coverage area only after successful deployments.

“The Central Government plans to carry out an evidence-based policy formation for enabling UTM systems in India,” the policy says, adding that an RFP for carrying out UTM experiments will be launched, providers will need to run their experiments within six months during which they will be granted sample integration with the Digital Sky platform, after which they would need to submit their recommendations to the government.

Unlike air traffic control (ATC) for passenger and other manned aircraft which is done largely manually, traffic management for drones will be primarily software-based to enable safe flight flights in close proximity to other drones as well as manned aircraft. UTMs will become necessary when there are hundreds, if not thousands of drones airborne in a particular place at the same time.

The policy states that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Airports Authority of India will continue to maintain regulatory and operational authorities. Other stakeholders will include the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, Air Defence Authority, and law enforcement and security agencies, among others.

“Traditional traffic management services provided by ATCs for manned aircraft cannot be scaled for managing drone traffic which is expected to become at least 100 times higher since the traditional air traffic management is manual and requires human intervention,” said Smit Shah, Director at Drone Federation of India (DFI) who is also a member of the National UTM Committee constituted under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

“This policy framework shall allow third-party service providers to deploy highly automated, algorithm-driven software services for managing drone traffic across the country,” Shah added.

26/10/21 Economic Times

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