UTM - A Common Framework with Core Boundaries for Global Harmonization
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To meet demand, States and regulators are encouraged to be innovative when approving unmanned aircraft systems traffic management (UTM) proposals; however, this leads to a lack of harmonization that may impact safety, security, the environment, system reliability and economic efficiency.
Through UTM, it is envisaged that civil aviation authorities (CAAs) and ANSPs, to the extent they are involved, will be able to make real-time information regarding airspace constraints and flight intents available to UAS operators directly or through a UTM service provider. The UAS operator would then be responsible for managing their operations safely within these constraints without receiving positive air traffic control services from the ANSP.
While UTM, as a concept, is already under development, a common agreement on its framework and principles is essential to ensuring global harmonization and interoperability. Accordingly, ICAO is supporting States, UAS industry leaders, academic and aviation professionals, in the development of a common agreement on the framework for UTM that will remain consistent with the principles of the Convention.
This document is intended to provide States that are considering the implementation of a UTM system, with a framework and core capabilities of a "typical" UTM system. A common framework is needed to facilitate harmonization between UTM systems globally and to enable industry, including manufacturers, service providers and end users to grow safely and efficiently without disrupting the existing manned aviation system. The following sections propose a common set of guiding principles and enabling actions.
There are several components of a safe and effective UTM system that may not yet be addressed in this version of the framework, such as transitions between UTM and ATM, design and certification standards of the UA and potentially high-altitude airspace UTM systems, it should be noted that future editions of this framework may address these issues, building on the foundation established herein.
UTM is envisioned as a subset of ATM intended to manage UAS operations safely, economically and efficiently through the provision of facilities and a seamless set of services in collaboration with all parties and involving airborne and ground-based functions. Such a system would provide UTM through the collaborative integration of humans, information, technology, facilities and services, supported by air, ground and/or space-based communications, navigation and surveillance.
UTM systems are therefore envisaged to be interoperable and consistent with existing ATM systems in order to facilitate safe and efficient operations. Although systems-level requirements for UTM systems have not yet been developed, core principles can be established that will guide their development. There are also numerous principles that exist in the current ATM structure that remain applicable when considering UTM services.
Where a State is considering the issuance of an operational approval for a UTM system, there are numerous factors which should be assessed.
Enabling or Complimentary Activities
In addition to the key enablers of registration and identification, communications and geo-awareness/geo-fencing, discussed in this framework, the safe operation of UAS – and BVLOS operations in particular – in a UTM system will depend on a range of supportive and enabling capabilities. UTM systems are envisaged to provide some of these, but they will require enabling policy and regulatory frameworks including emerging technological solutions. Many of these actions can be addressed by States in preparation for the implementation of a UTM system.
List of Potential Services
The UTM architecture could be considered as a collection of services, among other features, intended to ensure safe and efficient operations of UA within the UTM-authorized volume of airspace and in compliance with regulatory requirements. UAS operations may occur in uncontrolled and controlled airspace, with each type of airspace potentially requiring specific services. When UAS operations occur in controlled airspace, UAS operators would be required to follow the procedures and requirements for the airspace, unless an exemption or alternate procedures have been established relieving those operating in the UTM system from the established airspace rules.
While this document does not specify technologies associated with these services, it intends to provide suggested types of services.
Gaps, Issues and Challenges
The safe and efficient integration of UAS, particularly small UA, into existing airspace, presents numerous challenges. Indeed, recent studies forecast significant growth of UAS operations, leading to a shift of focus to operations in the low-level environment and over populated areas, with a variety of types operations and UA.
This section includes a short description of the gaps, issue and challenges that must be addressed to enable safe UAS operations within the UTM system.
ICAO continues its tasking as a global aviation forum, to support States, UAS industry leaders, academic and aviation professionals, exploring the current state-of-the-art for UTM and using that information to develop the framework and core principles of UTM.
This framework is not intended to endorse or propose any specific UTM system design or technical solutions to the UTM challenge but instead to provide an overarching framework for such a system. The intent is for this to be a living document and as new or additional information is gained, the UTM framework will be updated.
The developmental nature of UTM makes it difficult to predict how a follow-on framework would be organized, validated, and certificated. More participation from industry and/or future business advocates will be necessary to explore the minimal set of safety issues in product deployment/development that will have the potential to achieve global interoperability.
If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the UTM - A Common Framework with Core Boundaries for Global Harmonization guidance material, we would appreciate a message at DRONEENABLE@icao.int.