An FAA award marks progress toward integrating a fault detection and mitigation framework into unmanned traffic management systems. (Photo: Airbus)
A team of companies received $1.6 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to build and test their Contingency Management Platform at the New York Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York.
Though much progress has been made toward creating and testing unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems that will enable safe integration of drones into the national airspace, little work has been done to identify and prepare for potential system faults outside of aircraft malfunctions.
That’s the task these five companies have set out conquer, led by CAL Analytics, which will also provide systems integration, and working with Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research, or NUAIR. ResilienX is contributing health and usage monitoring and fault mitigation software; TruWeather is providing micro-weather services; Assured Information Security (AIS) is offering a cybersecurity module and Kongsberg Geospatial is providing beyond visual line of sight airspace visualization and mission management.
“We’re excited to work directly with the FAA to bring together some of the most innovative companies in the industry to tackle operational safety in UTM,” said Dr. Sean Calhoun, Managing Director of CAL Analytics, as reported by UAS Weekly. “Validating a contingency management approach is a critical, but often overlooked, step to achieve routine commercial drone operations.”
ResilienX’s health and integrity monitoring system, called FRAIHMWORK, performs both active and passive monitoring, according to Andrew Carter, president and CTO. Passive monitoring relies on safety-critical components and services of a UTM system reporting who they are, what they are doing, and if they think they are working correctly. Active monitoring entails diving into various sensor feeds and APIs to analyze data in near-real-time and determine whether the devices are functioning properly.
“In research performed in conjunction with the NASA and the FAA, the UTM industry has looked at some failure modes and has unintentionally run across others,” Carter told Avionics International. “Almost all of these fault scenarios, however, are focused on what happens when the drone does something unintended, due to a drone malfunction. As drones improve, and become more automated to autonomous, we believe that the data the drone is using to make decisions will need to be quality assured. We look at the UTM ecosystem and have seen almost no work done to date on failure modes or fault scenarios outside of drone malfunctions.”
The first goal of the project, Carter said, is to monitor for and detect these off-nominal conditions originating off the aircraft that could affect UAS operations. The second goal is to provide situational awareness of these scenarios and their impacts to a user who can then facilitate contingency management, either through automated responses or manual procedures, such as calling a UAS operator or air traffic control.
“Without an understanding of what can go wrong, how to detect it when it does, and what to do about it, the UTM ecosystem is missing many traits that are often considered in safety critical system of systems,” Carter said.
FAA officials speaking during the UAS Symposium earlier this month touted progress toward the deployment of UTM and reemphasize their intention to publish a final policy on remote identification by December.
Officials from the agency’s Aircraft Certification Office and Flight Standards Service — responsible for awarding aircraft certification and operational permits, respectively — noted the new challenges involved in approving drone operations, as each part of the equation impacts the other.
“The role of operational reduction of risk has increased significantly with the introduction of UAS,” said Earl Lawrence, executive director of the FAA’s Flight Standards Service.
“[The Aircraft Certification Office] and Flight Standards Service have been a lot more connected in looking at the mitigations between certification and operational. Because there is a gap there that we’ve been working towards,” said Rick Domingo, executive director of the Aircraft Certification Office.
Missing from that discussion was the third dimension of risk mitigation: a system that exists outside of a particular drone or operational plan that exists to reduce risk.
In other words, UTM.
“To date, neither regulators, operators nor the UAS Traffic Management (UTM) industry has really figured this out,” Carter told Avionics. “UTM is largely a risk mitigation concept. The FAA opened up an avenue to address this in version 2 of their UTM CONOPS through a concept of Performance Authorizations. Until operators can take advantage UTM as a quantified risk mitigation, complex UAS operations will not be done at scale.”
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An RTCA subcommittee is working on developing a consensus standard that details unmanned aircraft detection and mitigation standards, around airports, such as London Gatwick Airport, pictured here, where an incident involving a drone shutdown operations and cancelled hundreds of flights during an incident in December 2018. Photo: London Gatwick Airport
A Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) subcommittee is working toward development of a standard for detecting small drones around airports, which will help buyers and users of drone security systems to know if the detection component will perform as intended.
RTCA stood up a counter unmanned aircraft system (UAS) special committee in December to begin work on the detection standard after being approached by several government organizations such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to help the U.S. sort out drone security challenges, Al Secen, vice president of Technology and Standards with the association, said in an interview.
The standard will address questions like how quickly a target should be acquired, how small of a target should be detected, how it will be tracked through “violent maneuvers that a typical airplane wouldn’t go through,” Secen said.
Currently, government agencies like the FAA, DoD and DHS are being approached by industry with their sensors and solutions, but the government doesn’t know if something is “good enough” or “what is bad,” Secen said. The DoD hosts “Grand Challenges” to evaluate sensors and technologies in certain scenarios, but with detection standards, “all you have to do is say, ‘I’ve developed this against this standard and it meets the standard,’ and it sort of level sets everybody in the room. This is how it’s going to perform and this is why it’s performing this way.”
The “impetus” for moving forward on the drone detection standard was the temporary shutdown in December 2018 of hundreds of flights into and out of Gatwick Airport near London, Secen said in the July 6 interview done virtually. After the incident, the various government agencies approached RTCA about detection standards development, he said.
That incident costs airlines tens of millions of dollars and, since then, small drones operating near and in airspace around airports have become an occasional nuisance for airport operators worldwide, causing flight delays, stranding passengers and raising concerns about potentially fatal collisions with passenger aircraft.
“[We] Need proper detection to avoid economic loss and the travel disruptions we’ve had,” Max Fenkell, co-chair of the RTCA Special Committee-238 Counter UAS, said during the interview. Fenkell is the director for Unmanned and Emerging Aviation Technologies at the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade association representing the aerospace and defense industry.
RTCA works with various stakeholders to develop consensus standards across the wide range of aviation modernization issues.
The eventual drone detection standard will be “technology agnostic,” Fenkell said. Secen added that “We ensure a level playing field for everyone. The market will determine which solutions are better.”
So far, the special committee, which includes a broad range of members from academia, government and industry, including representatives from Europe, has been “incredibly active,” Fenkell said, despite grappling with impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and having to meet virtually across time zones between Germany and California.
The committee, which is working jointly with RTCA’s European counterpart EUROCAE, is putting together its first product, an Operational Services and Environmental Definitions (OSED) document, which Secen described as being akin to a concept of operations (CONOPS).
The OSED will “describe the ecosystem that the standard is going to be employed,” he said. “It allows people to say, ‘I can see my application, my agency, my offering in this OSED. I see where I fit in the overall CONOPS in this space.’”
The OSED is “foundational” to the eventual standard, which RTCA calls a Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS).
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The FAA’s first publication on air taxi operations, an evolutionary approach centered on exclusive corridors, garnered a mixed reaction from industry. (FAA NextGen)
The Federal Aviation Administration’s NextGen office recently published its V1.0 Concept of Operations for urban air mobility, developed in collaboration with NASA and industry. The document, an initial communication after discussions with industry last fall, lays the foundation for how high-volume cargo and passenger air taxis will begin to operate within the national airspace system — largely without the involvement of air traffic controllers.
The ConOps document envisions a transition from current helicopter routes to UAM Corridors, defined and declared by the FAA but largely governed by industry and other stakeholders through a process of community-based rulemaking (CBR). In order to operate within a Corridor, aircraft will have to meet its performance requirements and restrictions, which can differ from the surrounding airspace and from Corridor to Corridor.
“Within the UAM cooperative management environment, the FAA maintains regulatory and operational authority for airspace and traffic operations,” the document states. “UAM operations are organized, coordinated, and managed by a federated set of actors through a distributed network that leverages interoperable information systems.”
The notional UAM architecture presented by the FAA. (FAA NextGen)
Air Traffic Control (ATC) will determine the availability of Corridors based on surrounding conditions and operations, but within them will not provide tactical separation services. Instead, safe operations will be collaboratively ensured by pilots-in-command (either within the vehicle or remote) and providers of UAM services (PSUs), defined in the FAA’s ConOps document as similar to UAS service suppliers within the agency’s UTM ConOps.
As rising remand and technological improvements create the need and capability for higher-tempo operations, stakeholders can use the community-based rulemaking process to accommodate increased traffic by raising various performance and operational requirements, subject to FAA approval. FAA can also change the dimensions of Corridors or establish internal ‘tracks’ to support higher-tempo operations.
Reaction to the proposed ConOps across industry has been mixed, though most experts Avionics International spoke with applauded the FAA for releasing an important starting point. Uber, likely to be a key player in commercial UAM operations, did not respond to a request for comment.
“We commend the FAA for developing this initial ConOps, and for their UAM work with NASA and industry partners,” said Ben Marcus, co-founder of AirMap, a UAS service provider and member of the FAA’s Remote ID technology cohort. “UAM corridors are an important first step in making autonomous flight a reality in our cities. We believe that as UAM adoption increases in the longer term, low-altitude airspace will become less constrained and more dynamically allocated.”
Jon Hegranes, founder and CEO of Kittyhawk, told Avionics the community approach to rulemaking illustrated that the FAA is thinking about UAM “in a new way and not trying to squeeze UAM into legacy systems,” but the proposed PSU architecture adds unnecessary complexity.
“The creation of a new PSU structure that needs to interact with the established USS framework adds unwarranted complexity,” Hegranes said. “Laying the conops of the Notional UAM Architecture diagram over the Notional UTM Architecture should have a lot more overlap and synergies whereas we have two very different diagrams.”
Christopher Cooper, director of regulatory affairs for the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), told Avionics his organization supports efforts to safely add new entrants and operations into the airspace, but is concerned that the document’s emphasis on creating exclusive corridors would lock a variety of users and aircraft out of important airspace through technology and performance requirements, an approach more emblematic of separation than integration.
The ConOps briefly mentions the role of the public or local public safety organizations — as recipients of remote ID information, for example. But the document does not provide a process for local authorities and elected officials to be meaningfully involved in the location and creation of FAA-approved Corridors, noted Anna Dietrich, co-director of the Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI).
“The geographic determination of the aerodrome locations and the corridors themselves is a question that must have a high level of input from local authorities and the communities in which the aircraft will be operated,” Dietrich wrote in a personal blog post. “While … I support the idea that the FAA has preemption over all airspace, the document is silent on the role that local land use zoning and other tools might play in ensuring that appropriate effort be made to achieve the maximum balance of economic and community benefit, utility, adverse impact mitigation, transit integration, and social equity for these corridors.”
Dietrich also raised a number of other concerns about the document, including the lack of strong protection of the corridors from surrounding uncooperative air traffic, little discussion of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) self-deconfliction and sequencing, and the potential for inequitable access to corridors through demand capacity balancing.
NASA is working on its own UAM concept of operations that will be published in the next few months, according to Parimal Kopardekar, director of the NASA Aeronautics Research Institute (NARI), though that document will focus on scalable operations at a greater maturity level rather than early integration.
As is the case with all “first stabs” at something entirely new, the FAA’s V1.0 UAM ConOps document leaves the careful reader with many more questions than answers, but the beginnings of a vision for UAM integration without direct ATC involvement are evident.
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PARTNER CONTENT – Should you buy a maintenance plan to cover your business aircraft or helicopter? It’s a question operators should ask themselves from time to time. The answer is: it depends.
Fixed-cost maintenance plans are a godsend when something goes wrong with your engines, avionics or critical mechanical and electronic components. These programs can help you avoid expensive surprises, manage your maintenance budget and keep your aircraft in mission-ready condition.
Like similar programs for your house or car, maintenance plans for your aircraft protect you from the unexpected, enable you to proactively predict maintenance costs and spread out the projected cost of repairs over the course of a year.
Self-insurance is another strategy if you’re willing to assume the risk of covering 100 percent of your repair costs on an out-of-pocket basis. Consider this approach only if you know your aircraft very well, keep up with scheduled and preventive maintenance, and have years of maintenance-cost data available for analysis. Then you can do a pretty good job of estimating the annual cost of scheduled and unscheduled events so you can compare projected costs against the fixed cost of a maintenance plan and budget accordingly.
Even if the costs of both options compare favorably, many operators choose to mitigate risk with a maintenance plan, which above all provides peace of mind for owners, operators and directors of maintenance.
What’s important is that you make an informed decision on whether to sign up for a plan and which program to choose. That means doing your homework, starting with determining your needs and risks, and checking out available programs.
Working with our customers, we’ve found that many operators find it difficult to accurately estimate the cost of planned and unplanned events so they can build an adequate maintenance budget. Consider your aircraft’s age, since the needs of older aircraft are significantly different than newer ones. The more you know about your aircraft and the historic cost of maintenance, the better you’ll be able to evaluate the potential savings offered by a plan.
Many plans are available for business aircraft and helicopters. With continuous advancements in aircraft technology, sophistication and reliability, maintenance plan providers are keeping pace by changing programs to meet the needs of today’s operators. For example, Honeywell recently introduced a usage-based element that rewards operators for putting less stress on their propulsion engines.
It’s a good idea to investigate available programs, compare them side-by-side and ask providers for information specific to the aircraft you’re considering enrolling in a maintenance program.
Here are some questions you should ask maintenance plan providers to help you evaluate their specific program:
Armed with this information, you’ll be able to evaluate the available programs and determine the best course of action for your particular operation and aircraft. For more information on maintenance plans and to learn more about Honeywell’s full line of offerings, drop us a note on the accompanying form.
Karen Martinez is sales manager for Honeywell maintenance service plans. Honeywell offers a full range of service plans, covering propulsion engines, avionics, auxiliary power units and mechanical components.
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Check out the July 12 edition of What’s Trending in Aerospace, where editors and contributors for Avionics International bring you some of the top headlines and stories across various segments of the global aerospace industry that you should be aware of for the week ahead.
An x-ray rendering of XB-1, Boom’s supersonic demonstrator aircraft, which is scheduled for rollout in October followed by a first flight in 2021. Photo: Boom Supersonic
Boom Supersonic’s XB-1 subsonic demonstrator aircraft will roll out the company’s Denver, Colorado hangar on October 7, the company said in a July 8 press release.
Due to COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, Boom plans on holding a virtual online unveiling of the XB-1. During the rollout event, Boom’s lead engineers, test pilots and company leadership will discuss the design, flight and handling criteria for XB-1.
The rollout is a key milestone toward its first flight expected to occur in 2021 to demonstrate key technologies, such as advanced carbon fiber composite construction, computer-optimized high-efficiency aerodynamics, and an efficient supersonic propulsion system.
“Our experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic underscore for all of us the fundamental human need for personal connection. Faster travel enables us to experience the world’s people, cultures, and places, and XB-1 is the first step in bringing supersonic back to the world,” said Blake Scholl, Boom founder and CEO. “With XB-1, we’re demonstrating that we are prepared to bring back supersonic.”
Honeywell Aerospace has received an Federal Aviation Administration Technical Standard Order (TSO) for its IntuVue RDR-7000 radar system, which the company first introduce at the 2019 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE).
The 3D radar is described by Honeywell as being “fully automated, scanning from zero up to 60,000 feet, and up to 320 nautical miles in front of the aircraft.”
Larger business and passenger jets have benefitted from IntuVue for years, and soon those same capabilities will be available on many more platforms,” said Mike Ingram, vice president, Avionics, Honeywell Aerospace. “Pilots of these smaller aircraft will have the same 3D capabilities, full automation and predictive weather insights to help them make critical decisions to navigate weather ahead of and around the aircraft.”
Bombardier’s Global 5000, Dassault Falcon’s 900C/EX/LX and Cessna’s Citation X are among the aircraft RDR-7000 is currently available on, with initial delivers expected to begin in the third quarter.
Gogo has introduced new software configuration changes to its in-flight connectivity network that will enable pilots and passengers to connect at 3,000 feet above ground level (AGL) in place of the previous 10,000 feet AGL access point.
An additional 15 to 20 minutes of connectivity can be expected on most flights, a benefit to operators of shorter regional flights.
“The additional connectivity time is a significant enhancement and will deliver even more value to customers,” said Sergio Aguirre, president of Gogo Business Aviation. “It makes connectivity available to those who believed inflight Wi-Fi wasn’t an option because they fly shorter routes.
Availability at 3,000 feet will begin within a “phased process to enable service through ground-system configuration and remote software updates,” Gogo said in a statement. Approximately 1,300 AVANCE systems flying in business aviation will benefit from this change, as will roughly 650, commercial airline regional jets equipped with Gogo connectivity.
The United Kingdom is set to take a significant equity share in OneWeb in a groundbreaking deal. On Friday, July 3, OneWeb announced the U.K. government through the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will acquire the company by providing $500 million, with Bharti Global Limited providing another $500 million.
The deal is still subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close by the fourth quarter of 2020.
OneWeb said it plans to continue building its communications system to deliver connectivity to remote and rural parts of the world, starting with the Arctic. The company, which has 74 satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on March 27.
Read more about the investment and space industry reaction in Via Satellite.
The government of New South Wales, Australia, awarded a $700,000 grant AMSL Aero to support development of a four-seat electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
The project, in development for a few years, relies on battery storage but plains to incorporate hydrogen fuel cells when that technology is more mature. Andrew Moore, chief executive of AMSL Aero, describes his goal as to provide low-cost, zero emissions transport to better connect Australian cities such as Sydney and Canberra — a distance of 155 miles.
Government funds will be used to establish a testing facility and conduct test flights in the region of Narromine. The facility will be built in the next six to 12 months.
The FAA awarded $1.6 million to a group of five companies to develop and test a Contingency Management Platform intended to further fault detection and risk mitigation efforts for unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems. The team will test the platform at the New York UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport in collaboration with Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) and Oneida County.
The core health and usage monitoring and fault mitigation software will be provided by Syracuse, NY-based ResilienX, incorporating a TRL-9 cybersecurity module provided by Assured Information Security (AIS), micro-weather services from TruWeather, and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) airspace visualization and display information from Kongsberg Geospatial. Systems integration will be led by Beavercreek, OH-based CAL Analytics.
Jet It is a business aviation operator launched in 2018 that operates a fleet of HondaJet Elite aircraft and has introduced a unique business model to the private travel market.
The company uses days rather than hours to sell shares of aircraft to customers, allowing owners to only pay for the direct operating costs of the aircraft. That equates to $1,600 an hour.
Jet It currently operates a fleet of five HondaJet Elites, with plans to add more throughout the rest of the year.
On this episode of the Global Connected Aircraft Podcast, we’re joined by Glenn Gonzales, CEO and co-founder of Jet It.
Have suggestions or topics we should focus on in the next episode? Email the host, Woodrow Bellamy at email@example.com, or drop him a line on Twitter @WbellamyIIIAC.
Check out the 2020 Global Connected Aircraft Cabin Chats series on demand by clicking here.
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New York’s LaGuardia Airport is one of several areas where more Wide Area Multilateration system expansion will occur U.S. airspace over the next few years. Photo: LaGuardia Airport
Two initiatives to address critical obsolescence and end of service life issues for Cooperative Surveillance Radar (CSR) systems in the U.S. airspace, the Mode S Beacon Replacement System (MSBRS) and Wide Area Multilateration expansion will be key in serving as a back up to Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Out serving as the primary surveillance technology for the National Airspace System.
The era of required ADS-B equipage for aircraft flying in U.S. airspace, with some exceptions, began Jan. 1, 2020, with the FAA’s latest reported data showing a total of 141,968 aircraft have been equipped with the mandated surveillance technology. As those newer transponders become the norm, the FAA still has plans to modernize other sources of surveillance as backups.
Recent progress on secondary surveillance upgrades came in the form of the four-year Mode S Beacon Systems under the Mode S Beacon Replacement System (MSBRS) contract issued to Leidos and Thales in January. The agency is using MSBRS and WAM expansion as additional layers of surveillance in U.S. airspace where ADS-B and radar do not have adequate coverage and. Both technologies can also act as a backup source of surveillance when GPS related ADS-B outages occur.
WAM is described by the FAA as a network of small sensors that are deployed in areas where radar installations are problematic. These sensors leverage existing ADS-B ground stations to send, receive and analyze aircraft signals to determine the location of the aircraft and provide separation services for air traffic controllers. The technology has so far been operational in Juneau, Alaska, Charlotte, N.C. and at a number of airports in mountainous regions of Colorado.
The most recent WAM deployment included the installation of eight new WAM stations near Los Angeles International Airport, an FAA representative told Avionics via email. Those sensors are using the nine ADS-B ground stations that were previously established in the area. Operational analysis of the Los Angeles WAM stations was completed in May of last year.
“In the coming years, the FAA is planning on WAM deployments in the New York and Atlanta areas to enhance surveillance performance and resiliency in this airspace. These WAM deployments provide further opportunities to reduce radar frequency congestion in some of the busiest parts of U.S. airspace,” the representative said.
Those deployments will occur alongside the Mode S replacement work that the FAA will continue to oversee. Under a contract issued in January, Leidos and Thales are collaborating on the supply of up to 142 secondary surveillance radars, with Thales supplying the upgraded Mode S system and Leidos taking the lead on engineering life cycle support.
“The Mode S Beacon Replacement System program has completed two major program milestones with Leidos and its subcontractor Thales since the contract award. The Post Award Conference (PAC) in February 2020 was the first meeting to engage both the vendor and the government and provide a clear and mutual understanding of the award. The System Requirements Review (SRR) in March 2020 identified all the requirements of the contract and how they are being appropriately traced throughout the system,” a representative for the FAA told Avionics International in an emailed statement.
There will be two phases for the MSBRS program, with the first phase focusing on replacing secondary radar systems that will not be replaced by other programs, such as WAM expansion.
“The second phase provides an opportunity to address additional CSR sustainment issues and could include any remaining CSR systems not addressed in the first phase. The program may take eight to twelve years to complete all phases depending on the number of systems acquired,” the representative said.
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Under a new agreement, the FAA and Switzerland’s FOCA will work together to test, evaluate and publish on various elements of UAS safety. (FAA/AUVSI)
The Federal Aviation Administration signed an agreement to work with the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) on standards surrounding the safe use and integration of unmanned aircraft into civilian airspace, the agency announced during the 2020 FAA UAS Symposium remotely co-hosted with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
Under the declaration of intent (DOI), the two agencies intend to collaborate on projects related to UAS activities including unmanned traffic management (UTM) concept validation, airworthiness, control and communications, detect and avoid, human factors, low altitude safety, and training.
The agreement names FAA’s UAS Integration Office and FOCA’s Innovation and Digitalization Unit as the primary authorities for the agreement.
“UAS activities are now accepted worldwide as a vital sector of aviation,” said Jay Merkle, executive director of the FAA’s UAS Integration Office. “This U.S./Swiss agreement continues the move forward of the safe, efficient, and internationally harmonized integration of these vehicles into the world’s airspace.”
While the agreement doesn’t hold the participating agencies to jointly developing UAS regulation, it is a commitment to joint development of best practices likely to influence future policy activities.
“International cooperation can only bring speed to the development of safe and sensible policy,” commented Mike Pehel, chairman of InterDrone, referencing programs like the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on UAS (JARUS) and Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA). “I’m excited to see the FAA partnering with Swiss FOCA, one of the great forward-thinking bodies on UAS Integration, and believe this can only bring greater attention and scale to the data the Swiss U-Space implementation is producing with its ‘authorize and assess’ philosophy.”
Discussions about unmanned aircraft integration and UTM development during the FAA’s UAS Symposium underlined the importance of standards harmonization across borders. Failure to do so, government and industry participants noted, will reduce the ability for operational learnings to transfer, slow down the development of best practices and — in the long term — impact industry’s ability to innovate and provide services in a cost-effective manner.
“From an operator’s perspective, if there are significantly different means of operations, if there are different methods of compliance and kinds of tools, that complexity can affect the operator’s ability to repeatably execute an operation,” said Reinaldo Negron, head of UTM for Wing. “We see that as another key risk if we don’t have some of the harmonization that’s happening.”
“Without these common standards, we’ll have a patchwork of expectations and requirements that will make it very difficult for businesses globally to operate globally,” said Michael Thacker, executive vice president of innovation and commercial business at Bell.
One challenge noted with regards to harmonization efforts is getting enough international engagement in global standards bodies such as ASTM, which has developed standards for drone remote identification, operational risk assessment and more. Limited engagement during the standards formation process can result in uncertain levels of buy-in once the standard is produced, noted FAA’s Merkle.
In particular, the fundamentals of unmanned traffic management systems “really caught on globally thanks to NASA,” Merkle said, but has morphed in some areas of the world and “we’re having a hard time keeping everyone together … a challenge that will remain for a while as we see this mature.”
The results of any collaborative FAA-FOCA testing and analysis connected to the newly-signed agreement is expected to be “jointly owned,” according to the text of the agreement, with the participants to “mutually decide on the terms of first publication.” A working agenda is expected to be established within 60 days.
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Viasat has removed Internet speed limits for operators of business jets equipped with its Ka-band connectivity system, such as the Embraer Praetor 600, whose cockpit is pictured here. Photo: Embraer Executive Jets
Business jet operators flying aircraft equipped with Viasat’s Ka-band satellite connectivity are no longer limited to a maximum number of megabits per second (Mbps) in-flight, as the global communications company has removed all Internet speed limits to enable more efficient use of data intensive passenger and flight crew applications.
Viasat describes the move as an “industry first,” extending the removal of speed caps to its Ka-band coverage area. The company said service plan pricing will remain the same, and a new 200 GB data tier has also been introduced for business aviation.
Unlimited connectivity is now available to business jets equipped with Viasat’s Global Aero Terminal 5510 on the ViaSat-1, ViaSat-2 and European Ka-band satellite service. Their decision to eliminate the Ka-band speed maximums was driven by increased demand by business jet passengers for data intensive applications, such as in-flight video-conferencing and accessing content.
James Person, director of business development and strategy for Viasat’s business aviation division told Avionics International that operators have already seen speeds of up to 40 Mbps after the speed limits were removed.
“This really enables an unlimited number of those large spikes of data to the aircraft,” Person said. “When passengers are trying to stream things like Netflix shows or live sports games, the minute you start requesting that large volume of data to come over, it needs to buffer and build up that data before it hits the aircraft.”
Person said the speed removal has also helped open faster streaming to smaller mid and super mid cabin business jets, who are now able to stream and download large files or video conference for the first time in many cases. More than 1,100 Viasat connectivity terminals have been shipped to the business jet and government aircraft segment of their satellite network, while their fourth quarter and fiscal year 2020 year end report published in May showed 1,390 aircraft on the commercial airline side.
Several new business aircraft models will also have access to the new unlimited speed, after their Ka-band IFC system was was recently approved for Gulfstream G280 aircraft and received type certification for Embraer Praetor 600 aircraft at the 2019 annual National Business Aviation Association convention and exhibition. Viasat’s dual-band business aviation connectivity system also recently received certification for the Bombardier Global 5000/6000/GEX family.
“Our average users are historically below about 50 gigabytes (GB) per month, but with more volume available people will use it more, so we wanted to make sure we had plans large enough for them. Most of our subscribers are not going to need a 100 GB or 200 GB plan, but we do have corporate flyers and fractional operators who do fly a lot of hours per month and want those plans,” Person said.
Craig Foster, a London-based senior research consultant for Valour Consultancy, said that business aviation operators ever increasing data requirements are driving the need for bigger data allowances and “higher Maximum Information Rates (MIR) and Committed Information Rates (CIR).”
“As we emerge from COVID-19, these requirements will go up another notch with corporations transporting more of their employees through so-called health corridors and passengers having become more accustomed to using bandwidth-intensive applications like video-telephony and subscription-based streaming services during lockdown,” Foster said in a July 8 press release.
Removal of the speed limits by Viasat also comes as business aviation air traffic starts to build back up. Recently light tracking and aviation digital data service provider FlightAware reported its first day since the decline of traffic due to COVID-19 were business jet flights surpassed 2019 numbers, on June 20 when flights were 2.5 percent higher than they were last year.
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Robert Hammett, CEO of OneSky Systems, discussed various applications of the company’s modeling and analysis tools for unmanned traffic management (UTM) and urban air mobility (UAM).
As interested parties across the drone and air taxi space eagerly await the widespread implementation of unmanned traffic management (UTM) and related enabling technologies such as remote ID, Robert Hammett, CEO of OneSky Systems, joined Avionics International and other news outlets for a wide-ranging discussion.
OneSky, a company spun off from modeling and analysis software giant Analytical Graphics Inc., took part in many of NASA’s UTM development projects, is an airspace provider participant in NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign, and is a provider of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) services for drone operations in restricted airspace.
In 2014, AGI began exploring UTM as a new area of application for its core dynamic modeling and analysis products, which are used by a number of leading aerospace and defense companies for ground, sea, air and space applications.
“At that point, we recognized there was an opportunity for our technology, we drew some parallels for some things we were doing in the space domain which are very aligned with UTM, and realized there was an opportunity for us to build out this digital infrastructure primarily focused on the beyond visual line of sight operations (BVLOS),” Hammett told reporters during a conversation hosted by the Vertical Flight Society. “Instead of starting with an idea and an app, we started with 7 million lines of aerospace-grade code that’s been verified and validated and continues to get better every day.”
An image from OneSky’s participation in NASA’s TCL-4 UTM campaign. (Robert Hammett/OneSky Systems)
Hammett, who led the business unit within AGI that became OneSky when the company spun off in 2015, said the recognition of an opportunity was further confirmed with the more recent push for air taxis and urban air mobility.
In addition to the airspace and operation management services OneSky offers alongside many other UAS service suppliers — submitting flight plans, flight monitoring, customizable interfaces, producing analytics — Hammett said OneSky’s airspace modeling and analysis will prove useful to cities, companies and government agencies as they decide how to proceed with operations.
“As a result of this modeling, simulating and analysis that we do, we then get this very rich set of deliverables that can be taken advantage of to do any number of things, from interfacing internally with organizations, interfacing with customers, interfacing with regulators, getting waivers and safety approvals, building up community adoption,” Hammett said.
“What we’re finding is that cities have the need to take that conceptual ConOps 1.0 and figure out how to wire that to their city,” he said, referring to the FAA’s recently-released UAM ConOps V1.0. “‘What is my real infrastructure, and where are my opportunities to operate and take advantage of these corridors? Where do I have the demand to move people within the city?’ Our ability to quickly and easily model that … is really the first step, because you’ve got to figure that out.”
Per the FAA’s ConOps, the regulator plans to work with cities and industry to determine the placement of corridors designed for UAM operations, within which air traffic controllers will not perform tactical separation and stakeholders will use community-based rulemaking to safely increase the tempo of operations as capabilities improve. OneSky’s products are able to model cellular coverage, noise, and risk — other key elements in determining where cities may want to place these corridors.
In addition to its participation in U.S.-based test programs, OneSky has partnered with companies and air navigation service providers in Switzerland, Singapore, Australia and many other countries to participate in pilot projects and develop global standards.
“We’re hoping we can go as fast as we can, because the investment to participate in [NASA UTM/AAM and similar projects] are not insignificant and we really need to show that there are viable business models out here, whether on the UTM side or the UAM side, so that’s another challenge that our segment of the industry faces,” Hammett said.
OneSky is also a member of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Remote ID cohort, the group of companies selected to shape and build out the core technology that will power that system and have significant utility for counter-UAS operations, according to Hammett.
“We’ve got to bring the authorized operators in, pull them out of the picture, see what’s left in the data and then figure out how we isolate and assess the risk of those operations,” Hammett said.
Remote ID, BVLOS and operations over people are three key areas where Hammett said regulation needs to progress to enable UTM and expanded unmanned operations. The FAA is planning to release a final rulemaking for drone remote ID by the end of this year.
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