Air traffic control Netherlands (LVNL) conducted a test last week in which a drone pilot received instructions from an air traffic controller via the GoDrone app. The test was carried out in the controlled airspace around Rotterdam The Hague Airport. The aim is to investigate how air traffic control can be given to drone drivers via digital road in the future.

From RT to UTM

As more drones fly around in controlled airspace (CTRs), the need for an operational UTM (Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management) system grows. Drone flights can be monitored via such a system and an air traffic controller can possibly contact a drone pilot if there is reason to do so, for example, to warn of an approaching trauma helicopter or another unforeseen danger.

Today, such communication continues via traditional two-sided radio traffic. For that reason, a so-called RT operator must always be involved in a drone flight in a civil CTR. This means higher costs for the drone operator and an additional load for the air traffic controllers in the control tower. This is partly why there is now a limit on the number of controlled drone flights in CTRs per day. In the future, communication must therefore be partly automated via GoDrone and a underlying UTM system developed by Altitude Angel.

First test

During the first test, the medical drone of ANWB and PostNL flew through the airspace of Rotterdam. The flight was registered via the GoDrone app. Via the KPN mobile network, the drone transponder passed real-time location data to the GuardianUTM system. In this way, an air traffic controller can visually display the planned flight area, monitor the flight path of the notified drone flights live, provide and revoke clearances and instructions, and provide air traffic information to the drone driver.

“Passing this test is an important milestone for us,” says Jurgen van Avermaete, General Manager of Procedures at LVNL. “LVNL is doing a next result in order to be able to safely handle manned and unmanned aviation in the same airspace. In controlled airspace, this also means providing air traffic control to drone drivers. This is a challenging task and for this we work closely with our Dutch Drone Delta partners. We’re not there yet, but the success of the test shows that we’re on the right track.”

Important step

Also for the Dutch Drone Delta — to which ANWB is affiliated with the Medical Drone Service project — it was a special day. Stephan van Vuren, Project Manager at Dutch Drone Delta Foundation: “Within the Dutch Drone Delta, we see a future in which we see a future in which drones, in the form of Urban Air Mobility, are a full-fledged and accepted form of mobility, with a positive impact for society, economy and the environment. To achieve this, it is essential that there is a safe, reliable and efficient UTM system in the Netherlands. With this test, we have taken an important step in this and we look forward to taking further steps together, with all stakeholders, to ultimately implement this system on a larger scale.”