Switzerland Plans to Deploy Europe's First Drone Air Traffic Management System

Switzerland is on the way to integrate drones into its air traffic management system. The country also wants to create a system in which data and digital communications can be shared more efficiently.

Switzerland is working to implement plans to allow drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) integrate into its larger air traffic system and thus operate more freely in airspace.

Due to near-accidents between drones and commercial airliners, people have been becoming more careful with drone technology. Switzerland wants to use the opportunity to include drones in the larger system, with the thought of helping air traffic management, as well as more casual drone operators.

The Swiss air traffic control operator Skyguide would like to combine its own data and tools with a software company called AirMap, which is based in Santa Monica, California.

AirMap has a platform that digitally maps airspace. Switzerland plans to create a digital registry of drones and their operators using their own technological features as well as AirMap’s.

The overseeing government agency in the US, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has a registry as well. But FAA does not have plans to integrate it into American air traffic control’s databases or grids.

Tracking flying vehicles

Switzerland also wants to create a system in which data and digital communications can be shared more efficiently. This will empower UAV controllers to obtain official permission more quickly.

With this method, operators can be shown where the boundaries are for that specific instance of flight. Switzerland views integration and official registration, as an important step to ensure that they can keep track of all the flying vehicles.

This will presumably increase accountability and ability to fly drones. “We’re bringing in the actual radar surveillance feeds that air traffic controllers use in providing that high fidelity data directly to drones and drone operators,” Ben Marcus, co-founder and chairman of AirMap, said. “The idea is to solve relatively simple problems which limit opening airspace to drones.”

Preventing drone intervention in emergencies

In the US, drones have interfered in certain situations, like emergencies. Local and federal authorities have reported several instances UAVs have gotten in the way when they were responding to a fire or other public crisis. There were also reports of drones interfering with firefighting efforts during the recent California wildfires.

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However, it is not always easy to identify the human culprit. On the other hand, many people may know they shouldn’t be operating drones near emergency situations like forest fires.

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But they may not be aware that there is one occurring nearby. In a system like Switzerland’s, authorities would be more likely to determine the UAV operator, and the operator would be able to know where they are and are not allowed. This could help decrease the chances of such occasions from happening.

Switzerland’s effort forms part of an initiative known as U-Space. This initiative aims to further safe and secure access to European airspace for millions of drones and their operators.

The first phase of U-Space is designed to include the development of services that will register and ID drones and operators, in addition to the partnership between Skyguide and AirMap. It will also put in place geofencing restrictions, which means the airspace around and above certain buildings and locations will not be accessible to drones.

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