Five takeaways from the FAA’s UTM Pilot Program 2 (UPP2)

Last week, the OneSky team – along with representatives from the FAA, NUAIR, and a number of other UTM providers – wrapped up Phase 2 of the UAS Traffic Management Pilot Program (UPP2). Taking place at Griffith International Airport in upstate New York, UPP Phase 2 was meant to, “showcase capabilities and services that support high-density Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations, including remote identification (Remote ID) services and public safety operations.” As we look back over the 7 months of rigorous simulations, trials and testing – we wanted to share our top takeaways from this rewarding and collaborative experience. 

While standards continue to evolve, it’s clear significant progress has been made – and real-world UTM systems are more mature than ever.

UPP2 identified five realistic use cases for UTM in a high density airspace, ranging from beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) medical flights to line-of-sight (LOS) cinematography operations. At one point, approximately 15 drone flights were operating simultaneously in downtown Rome, NY. Fortunately, ASTM standards provided the viable framework for UTM service providers to communicate with one another. Remote identification, conformance monitoring, strategic deconfliction and other functions that ASTM specifies, demonstrated the feasibility of the CONOPS.  All of the work behind the ASTM standards enables OneSky to interoperate with other USS’s to give pilots the enhanced situational awareness they need to safely fly in busy environments.  

UPP2 placed a much needed focus specifically on global USS interoperability. 

As part of the UPP2 exercise, there were between four to six organizations collaborating together at any given time, ensuring compatibility with the ASTM standard. While communication between USSs should be relatively straight forward, even making a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich can turn into a mess if you misinterpret the order of operations. As with any new technology, some requirements are implied and not mentioned, and although multiple interpretations of the process may be technically correct, they may not be compatible. 

Amendments to the standards, combined with logistical problems caused by COVID, created a challenging development environment for this project. Thankfully the focus placed on interoperability created multiple opportunities of regression testing along with shakedown tests, akin to rehearsals of the final demonstration, to test features and troubleshoot nebulous, intermittent problems. Several rounds of testing were done to ensure we were communicating and operating with other USSs and a DSS, who in this case was Ax Enterprize – and certainly deserves praise for getting all the right teams together to ensure

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