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Scaling Up for Unmanned Traffic Management

Drone Radio Show August 24, 2020 9

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“It’s not about endurance or flight time. It’s about consistency of communication and continuity of operations. This is what multi-drones can deliver.”

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HIs Week’s Key Question

“What’s involved with scaling up Unmanned Traffic Management systems?”

This Week’s Guests

Amit Ganjoo is Founder & CEO of Washington DC based ANRA Technologies, an award winning drone operations and UAS Traffic Management platform.  It’s one thing to develop a UTM system to track a few drones, but it’s a much different challenge when the number of drones climb into the hundreds and event thousands.  Anra’s UTM and Mission Management system is designed to meet this challenge and is used by commercial and government entities for managing commercial drone operations at scale.

Amit has over 20 years of aviation, telecom and wireless experience in both the federal and the commercial space. He is an engineer and a licensed pilot pursuing his lifelong passion in aviation by building and flying experimental aircraft.  As part of his pursuit to efficiently integrate drones into the airspace, Amit is a board member of the Global UTM Association that supports the accelerated and transparent implementation of globally interoperable UTM systems. He is also a member of FAA’s Drone Advisory Committee working group for UTM.

Prior to founding ANRA Technologies, Amit was co-chair for the FCC Technical Advisory Council (TAC) for 5G and IoT, which included ground and airborne autonomous vehicles. He was the Director of Engineering and Principal Architect at Ericsson, providing telecom solutions to commercial customers and the Federal Government, where he was the recipient of the Athena Award.  Amit is an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Engineering and volunteers at a local Maker Space in the D.C. area. He holds a master’s degree in Computer Science and Civil Engineering from Iowa State University and a Bachelor of Engineering from Punjab Engineering College.

What We Learn

Amit talks about Anra Technologies’ UTM and Mission Management system, how it can help enterprise companies safely and efficiently scale operations and the future of unmanned traffic management.

In This Episode

  • Introduction. The team at ANRA Technologies has multiple decades of aviation, robotics and communications experience. Amit used to be the principal architect for a company called Ericsson, then worked for the US Department of Defense on a drone and communications program. In 2015, he starting ANRA Technologies.  Although relatively new to the commercial market, the team’s experience in the defense sector gave it a leg up.  They had some initial ideas, which turned into patents and they built a quick and dirty prototype, that won an award at a 2015 DC event.  Amit received a call from NASA shortly afterward, inviting the company to join them in working on UTM.  The prototype was designed to look at how to safely integrate drones into the national airspace.  Not just one or two drones, but hundreds, if not thousands or millions of drones sharing the same airspace.  Sharing space requires something called “deconfliction”, the process or decisions to make sure drones, when they’re in the sky, don’t go bumping into each other (or bumping into airliners or buildings).  That’s what NASA was looking to research, and that took a life of its own and became the ANRA Technologies UTM platform.  
  • Meet The Jetsons. The world is transitioning into the Jetson stage where eventually, urban air mobility or what NASA calls, advanced air mobility will be in operation.  Such system will have people flying from building rooftop to another rooftop.  Before that happens, however, we’ll most likely see cargo being delivered using unmanned aircraft.  And then with the likes of Uber (Uber Air Mobility), we’ll start to see passenger service in urban areas.  But this is still a way out, but it shows the possibilities and the need for a reliable UTM system.  It all starts with innovation, experimentation to operationalization. So like there are a lot of experiments going on and some are transitioning to operationalize.  
  • The Framework. The ANRA Technologies system has been used in several operational trials and field demonstrations. In addition, it is powering the first of its kind nationwide operational deployment for all of India (called Digital Sky).  The system integrates different kinds of ground and air based sensors for detecting cooperative or noncooperative traffic, such as radar,  ADSBN and RF detection systems. They all feed into the system, which fuses into actional data to ensure the safety of their air space.  UTM is a framework and a foundational block. It’s not the end all be all. It’s an enabler for the whole ecosystem. As the number of drones in the sky increases, as we see small, medium and large unmanned aircraft, we will need a UTM system that can enable that activity to occur safely.   As far as a timeline goes for air integration, expect to see cargo and packages, larger scale, like mid to large size UAVs happening before we see actually people moving around.  UTM is also evolving as an ‘enabler.’  It’s going to enable more scaled operations, more beyond visual line of sight operations and greater safety. And there’ll be different aspects of UTM that will become more prominent as we move to omore complex use cases.
  • Mission Management Platform. ANRA’s Mission Management system is designed for the whole life cycle management for enterprise drone operations.  It provides a way to track assets, track resources, flight planning,  capturing data, getting the data into the system, analyzing the data and pushing the actionable results into the enterprise system. And it keeps evolving. It’s used by enterprises. It’s used by fortune 50 enterprises in the U.S. and internationally as well.  The system ties into the UTM system seamlessly, but someone could use the mission management system without the UTM system. As companies scal operations, they can expand the system.  Industries where the greatest traction is found include the pipeline inspection, power inspection, construction site inspection, and critical infrastructure inspection, etc.
  • Success Factors. A lot of people get excited about this industry and everyone wants a part of the pie, but ANRA Technlogies came at it from inside out. They helped build the system, define the interface and the standards.  That’s helped them gain a foothold in the industry.  ANRA Technologies never strayed from their core mission.  The never had to pivot or change their focus. They’re strategy has always been to identify the problem and solve the problem versus build a solution and then find the problem. They’ve also been very customer focused. They believe in cooperation and teamwork, and that’s been extremely successful. For them, it’s teamwork, collaboration and cooperation.
  • Deployment. Countries may vary somewhat, but in general, UTM systems will be deployed at the national level.  In all likelihood, there’s not going to be a single system that does everything. For example, the FAA may run some services around airports. But outside of that, industry may be called upon to fill the gaps, so long as the various systems can communicate with each other and meet the standards / requirements set by the FAA.
  • Closing. Amit closes by saying that air space integration is gaining acceptance.   It take a while to achieve, but it’s going to happen.  He encourages those who want to be ready for the future to look at what ANRA Technologies can offer

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