The annual Air Traffic Management (ATM) magazine awards has selected Frequentis and Avinor Air Navigation Services (ANS), as the winner of its 2020 award for ATM/UTM (unmanned traffic management) integration. The project caught the attention of judges for its ability to provide situational awareness of the unified airspace and safe, secure and reliable communication between air traffic control (ATC) and drone operators.
Avinor ANS selected Frequentis to implement an innovative UTM solution for 17 airport towers across Norway in early 2020 to manage the increasing number of flight requests from drone operators. The UTM project in Norway supports the Norwegian Government’s drone strategy for the increased safe use of drones, and to tackle the rising number of reported incidents and airspace violations. With the UTM solution, Avinor ANS has the means to accelerate the safe integration of drones, evolving the commercial use of the technology to generate sustainable revenue streams.
“The challenges imposed by Covid-19 were mitigated by full cloud deployment; virtual meetings and site acceptances, involving teams in Norway, Germany, Austria, the UK and the US, kept the project on track. We believe that Avinor ANS and Frequentis won this award because of how the Ninox Drone system addresses user friendliness to drone users at the same time as it ensures a simpler way of handling drone requests for the air traffic controllers (ATCO). Together these two aspects pave the way for a safe integration of drones in controlled airspace,” says Axel Knutsen, Avinor ANS vice-president Unmanned Traffic Management. “With this system we are ready to serve the unmanned industry for the coming years.”
The intuitive tower application and drone operator front-end, provided by Altitude Angel, was adapted with the strong involvement of a user interface expert in close cooperation with ATCOs and allows ATC to set airspace rules and restrictions, review flight plans and issue clearances to drone operators, in real time. In addition, the UTM-system provides the Common Information Services (CIS) function and includes a foundation of U-space (unmanned airspace) services. CIS provides the so-called ‘single source of truth’ for relevant safety information to reach connected stakeholders.
“The system is already live at six towers in Norway, providing situational awareness of the unified airspace and allowing air traffic control (ATC) and drone operators to communicate in real-time, enabling safe drone operations,” says Guenter Graf, Frequentis vice-president new business development. “We are pleased to be supporting Avinor ANS with the implementation of the first Nordic UTM system, ready for nationwide roll out.”
Avinor ANS is facing more than 10,000 drone operations per year within a 5km radius of its 17 airports and is seeing double-digit growth each year. The project began with a proof of concept at Bodø Airport and Kristiansund airport, followed by Alta, Banak, Kirkenes and Tromsø airports. By surfacing critical safety information digitally to drone operators and air traffic controllers, the solution facilitates faster and more efficient decision-making.