Africa search its own UAS Traffic Management systems.
UAS Traffic Management systems (UTM) are critically important for the drone industry as a whole. These systems help keeping control over flying drones, and between unmanned and manned traffic. In the past few months, there’s been a noticeable huge growth of UTM systems, developed by many different companies all over the world. Last month, Astral Aerial Solutions, a subsidiary of the African cargo airline Astral Aviation, won the 2017 IATA Air Cargo Innovation Award, along with $20,000, for its UTM concept for Africa.
Astral Aerial Solutions already owns two drones, the Guardian Eye and the Flyox. The Flyox has a payload capacity of 2,000kg, maximum range of 1200km, flight endurance of 26hours on surveillance mode, and lands on water and unpaved runways. The drone is still in testing, but will primarily be used for air transport of cargo from a central logistics hub (droneport) to remote areas and will serve the agriculture, oil and gas, cargo and ecommerce industries. The Guardian Eye is a smaller drone which the company uses for powerline inspections, mapping, surveillance, escorting relief convoys in conflict areas and in anti-poaching applications. One of the main issues with drone operations in Africa is safety. That’s why the company focused on the development of a UTM system. As any other UTM system available, it will help organize UAS traffic, avoid collisions with aircrafts and other UAS and also provide vital information to pilots such as weather updates, restricted airspace, altitude separation and relevant NOTAMS where applicable. This UTM system enables position sharing, which ensures information about other drones operating in the airspace is available for any operator, to reduce the chances of collisions and traffic congestion in the airspace.
Although there isn’t an estimated date of when we can see this system fully working, Astral Aerial Solutions will begin tests later this year, pending government approval. The first step will be the implementation of virtual highways, with other aspects following up, such as pilot logging in, UAS identification and data sharing with the regulators.