The UK’s Manchester Airport has staged the trial where unmanned drones were flown safely alongside manned aircraft.

The demonstration was live-streamed to the Royal Aeronautical Society.

Codenamed as Operation Zenith, the programme was organised to showcase the real-time integration of air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) in a controlled airspace.

The trial was aimed at regulating the drone traffic in the sensitive area such as an airport and open up the skies to commercial airspace globally.

The programme was also joined by Altitude Angel and NATS, the UK’s air navigation service provider. During the trial, Altitude Angel’s GuardianUTM Airspace Management Operating System was deployed, which safely integrated everyday operations of various commercial and recreational drone into controlled airspace.

GuardianUTM O/S allows air traffic control, drone manufacturers, software developers, and drone pilots to integrate the UTM platform into their operations and see who is currently in the sky and where.

“It’s a big step forward towards the commercial implementation of UTM, we need this.”

During the trial, GuardianUTM O/S supplied all parties with a real-time ‘moving map’ of all aerial activity, which the UTM system also used to send advance warning to nearby automated drones or the pilots in charge to ensure they can safely operate in close proximity.

Simultaneously, the UTM system was fully integrated into the air traffic control tower at Manchester Airport and offered air traffic controllers a comprehensive view of all approved and unapproved activities.

Global UTM Association secretary-general Benoit Curdy said: “The level of collaboration was very impressive. It sets a new standard. It’s a big step forward towards the commercial implementation of UTM, we need this.”

Frequentis new business development UTM head Jan Ziegler said: “Interoperability is key for the future success of ATM and UTM integration, and Altitude Angel is pioneering this concept through its GuardianUTM O/S.

“Frequentis is pleased to be part of such a powerful real-life demonstration, underlining how existing and proven ATM-grade solutions converge into a unified traffic management concept.”

After the demonstration, NATS is to deploy GuardianUTM O/S as its national UTM operating system from December to offer fair and equitable access to the airspace for all.