This Spring, FAA Tests UTM Systems to Move Forward on Drone Integration

FAA tests UTM

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In an announcement earlier this month, the FAA announced that they would be moving forward with drone integration and unmnaned traffic management systems. Beginning this spring, FAA tests UTM systems in the field.

UTM systems are a critical piece of the full integration of commercial drones into the airspace.  Not one single piece of technology, UTM is a framework that will allow unmanned systems to operate safely in the same airspace with manned aircraft.

From the FAA announcement:

UTM includes a set of services that are complementary to, but separate from, Air Traffic Management services for manned aircraft. It is targeted toward small unmanned aircraft operations in airspace, generally flying below 400 feet, and builds on current rules and capabilities that enable airspace access and authorization.

One of the first services launched in the US was the FAA’s LAANC (low altitude authorization and notification capability) systems: as a second foundational step, the FAA announced the Remote ID rule at the end of 2020.

FAA Tests UTM in the Field

The Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) Field Test will start in the spring of 2022.  “The test outcomes will provide the FAA with critical information to support the development of new policies and for industry development of updated standards to allow drones to routinely fly beyond visual line of sight of the operators,” says the announcement.

During the field tests, the FAA and industry partners will “conduct multiple drone flights in realistic test scenarios to learn more about how to manage drone traffic in varying environments. The flight tests will examine how the latest capabilities and standards will work to support the operations in the real world.”

According to the FAA Website:

The FAA and NASA have developed a joint UTM Research Plan to document research objectives and map out the development of UTM. NASA is conducting research at UAS Test Sites to further explore UTM capabilities that will accommodate rulemaking as it expands opportunities for drone integration. The FAA expects that UTM capabilities will be implemented incrementally over the next several years.

Read more about UTM systems: