Philip Butterworth-Hayes is a consultant and writer on global aerospace affairs. He is the editor of Unmanned Airspace, the first dedicated UTM/counter UAS new service, and editor of Skyway, the journal of EUROCONTROL. He is also a commentator on aviation safety issues for the global broadcast industry. In this edition of the Drone Radio Show. Philip shares his perspective on efforts to create an unmanned traffic management system in Europe and he compares those efforts with what he’s observed here in the United States.


In This Episode
  • Introduction. Philip Butterworth-Hayes is consultant, author and creator of Unmanned Airspace, an website dedicated to air traffic management. The site is aimed at air navigation service providers around the world that want to integrate drones in their airspace. Philip has 30 year experience covering the air traffic management industry. He is fascinated by an industry where men & women have to work in total harmony with machines to minimize risk. The introduction of autonomous systmes (UAVs) adds even more complexity and demand on the various systems.
  • UTM Around the World. Philip provides some insights into what’s happening in other countries in regard to UTM. Whereas the United States and Western Europe are looking at several components of UTM, other countries like Brazil, Kenya and Poland are focusing on implementing one major elements (live BVLOS). Poland has been successful in creating relationships between the people who build and supply the UTM systems, government regulators and military operators.
  • Different Approaches. Philip recounts a story of the A380 design which pitted French and British design teams. The British team began producing designs almost immediately, while the French teams went into long process of investigation, discovery and discussion. After about year, the French team still had produced anything of substance, while the British team appeared to have nearly completed their designs. Then finally the French team took the results of their research and quickly produced a design that was perfect, while the British team struggled to complete the last components of the design. Although the British team was close, the last elements of the design were the most complicated. Philip sees these same approaches in UTM.
  • Stakeholder Challenges. In almost all countries, especially the larger nations, there are so many stakeholders, the challenge is how to involve everyone in a meaningful way so they feel they are part of the decision making process. Public involvement processes, if not designed properly, can become a drag on a project’s forward momentum. Add the complexity of security concerns, multiple layers of government and urban operations and the challenges multiply.
  • Who’s Doing Well. Dubai and Singapore, single city states, where there is only one Civil Aviation Authority and Security Organization, so it’s much easier to make decisions. Such countries will be able to move very quickly. France, United Kingdom, Poland, Italy and Switzerland who are moving very quickly towards complex BVLOS flights. Brazil and Kenya are also doing some very interesting and innovative things. Although it may appear to be a kind of organized chaos in the U.S., Philip believes something will come out of it. A commercial imperative will continue to drive things forward. It’s challenging with advances are happening on all levels. Philip gives high praise to the French, because they are spending a lot of time thinking about UTM and working with a broad base of national, regional and local stakeholders in evaluating options, risks and alternative strategies.
  • Lack of Data / Standards. Aviation service providers are very conservative and want a world where there are no surprises and drones are very surprising. This is a challenge. There is a lack of data on how drones and manned systems interact with each other. Manufacturers don’t provide details on their failsafe mechanisms or performance and even if they did, the data would be out of date in six months. So it is very hard to model a system without accurate data. This makes air service providers nervous.
  • Funding UTM. According to Philip, an Italian NSP surfaced a plan to charge commercial operators a fee to use the UTM. It is the only NSP to do so at this time, but it could portend the future funding stream for many UTMs around the world,
  • UTM in Historical Context. Philip compares the dynamic challenges of UTM with the advent of the low cost airline, which dramatically changed air service and resulted in the growth of new markets and airports. Political instability (like in the Middle East) and weather changes (i.e. volcanos) have also caused major shifts in air traffic demands. UTM combined with future growth requires a new approach.
  • What We Don’t Know. There is no UTM system in operation, so we don’t many of the basic questions, such as how do we communicate with UTMs, how do look for small UAVs, how do we know which ones are cooperating and those that are not, etc. We don’t know if the solution lie in the software or in the hardware, nor do we yet know what sort risk is involved. It could take years to find the answers, and a real question is whether companies can survive long enough to actually participate in the system and reap an economic return on their efforts.
  • Love of Aviation. Philip shares his more memorable stories on aviation and what continues to inspire in in this field.
  • Closing. Philip believes UTM is a great enabler, and it will allow people to fly complex interesting operations. But for that to happen, the right people have to be confident in the UTM safety case, the automation and technology and the regulations to allow it to grow.
Mentioned Links