Growing risk of drones to air traffic

Drone incidents reported by pilots more than doubled to 158 in Germany compared to the prior year. At Britain’s Gatwick Airport, drone sightings severely disrupted operations in December. In various demonstrations, the UAS Traffic Management (UTM) system developed by the German air navigation service provider DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung and the telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom has proven to be a reliable solution for safely integrating unmanned traffic into airspace.

12.03.2019.- The UTM system is the key enbabler for unlocking the commercial potential of drones. The various tests conducted included a search mission together with the German Lifesaving Society DLRG for a missing person, the pre-exploration of an accident site with a fire service copter and an aerial patrol of a Thyssengas pipeline.
“Drones offer so many positive aspects over conventional methods,” said Thilo Vogt, Head of UAS/UTM Development and Solutions at the German air navigation service provider DFS. “However, drones also pose a growing risk to air traffic. The aviation world is at a turning point. Integrating drones into the airspace opens up new worlds – but also poses new challenges with regard to safety.”

This is why DFS has also developed an interface for data communication between its UTM and drone detection systems used for preventing disruptions caused by “bad” drones.

In February, DFS and Rheinmetall, Germany’s largest supplier for defence technology, tested an integration together with the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces. Air traffic data were exchanged with advanced radar systems, with acoustic and infrared sensors, and with optical equipment to detect a potentially threatening drone. A catch-and-carry drone threw a net over the disruptive drone and took it to the ground. 

UTM based on ATM technology
The UTM system is an advanced version of the air traffic control system Phoenix, a DFS in-house development which can process position data from a range of sources. Drones equipped with a special LTE transponder connect to the mobile network and transmit their position to the UTM. The UTM system then displays the air situation, shows surrounding traffic and warns of potential conflicts. Protected areas, for example around airports, can be displayed.
The UTM system is highly automated and provides the required information to all parties involved. Air traffic controllers receive the data they need to ensure safety in airspace. Airspace users can see each other and can be seen. Even position data of VFR aircraft (via FLARM and ADS-B) are provided. Drone pilots can receive information over a web interface and manage their flights using a tablet or smartphone.
The project has received much attention in Germany and was awarded the German Mobility Prize 2018.

Media contact:
Nanda Geelvink
Telephone +49 (0)6103 707-4164

Further information:
At the World ATM Congress in Madrid (12-14 March 2019), DFS shows its UTM solution at its booth no. 834. A presentation on “The emerging UTM system at DFS” will be given by Ralf Heidger at the Tower Theatre, on 13 March, 11:20 am.

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DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,400 employees. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Around 2,000 air traffic controllers guide up to 10,000 flights in German airspace every day, more than three million movements every year. This makes Germany the country with the highest traffic volume in Europe. The company operates control centres in Langen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as control towers at the 16 international airports in Germany. The subsidiary DFS Aviation Services GmbH markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport in the UK.