Richard Parker, founder and CEO of Altitude Angel and Andy Sage, NATS Head of Drones. Image: NATS

UK’s Altitude Angel partners with NATS, Frequentis for safe c-drone use

Equipment & systems Policy • regulations • airspace

Altitude Angel of Reading, Berkshire, a startup founded in 2015 specialized in c-drone air traffic management, has entered partnerships with NATS, the UK air navigation service provider (ANSP) with international contracts, and Frequentis AG, an Austrian worldwide provider of safety-critical voice and data communications to control centers, to work on integrating c-drone traffic with conventional aviation. The stated goal is to enable both remotely piloted and autonomous c-drones to safely share airspace with aircraft, both in the UK and in other countries.

Using Frequentis infrastructure, NATS will integrate realtime data from Altitude Angel’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) platform, GuardianUTM, which already receives voluntary flight plans for around 5,000 drone flights per month in the UK and delivers safety data to around 50,000 active monthly registered drone pilots. The GuardianUTM database details airspace restrictions in over 80 countries.

Previously, NATS and Altitude Angel worked together on the Drone Assist smartphone application which shows restricted flight zones to c-drone pilots, who can also voluntarily post their flight plans for consultations by other app users.

In October 2016, Frequentis contributed to the NASA UTM Technical Capability Level 2 (TCL2) trials at Reno-Stead Airport in US state of Nevada. The company says that its Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems are all “drone-ready”.

In a video published by NATS, Andrew Sage, Head of Drones, stated: “This is not another trial, or prototype, or test of the technology. This is real, this is about us integrating [UTM] capability into our day-to-day operations. We have already taken the capability of Altitude Angel into our day-to-day operations for the benefit of general aviation, and very soon this year we will also be using it in order to enable airspace applications on behalf of drone operators… now, a lot of people talk about UTM meaning Unmanned Traffic Management. We can’t have one system working for one set of users, and another system for others. For us, it is more about a Unified Traffic Management. We need a common framework that will support a myriad of different airspace users, whether they be manned or unmanned, in the same section of airspace, interacting with one another.”