More than 60 industry experts took part in the incipient European UTM Day in Geneva last month to discuss global standards for the interoperability of manned and unmanned aircraft in the airspace. 

Among them were AirMap’s Matt Koskela, Head of Product, and Jared Ablon, Chief Information Security Officer.

What is UTM, and why is it important?

UTM, or Unmanned Aerial Systems Traffic Management, is the system by which drones safely and efficiently integrate into different national airspace systems. UTM includes things like universal drone registration standards, open identification systems, tamper-proof flight data recorders, accurate and trustworthy 3D mapping data, dynamic weather information, and vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

The goal of UTM is to answer questions like:

  •  What is the safest and most efficient route to my destination?
  •  Who else is flying nearby?
  •  How do I communicate with them?
  •  What are the rules of the road (or sky)?
  •  What are the weather conditions for my route?
  •  How do I register and authenticate with the system?
  •  What other data is relevant for my flight?

UTM standards should translate across borders to answer questions like:

  • What should you do if you take your drone overseas or across borders?
  • How should a drone communicate, and to what systems, if it flies across country lines?

Key Components to a UTM


As the drone industry grows, more and more companies and developers will build new and proprietary systems (drone manufacturers, service providers, data companies, etc).  A UTM sets global standards for interoperability to remove barriers to entry for new entrants to the drone market and to make drones part of everyday life.

Compatibility with Aviation Protocol

Drone industry standards should evolve to be compatible with traditional aviation protocol given the high risk profile of manned flight. Because traditional aviation systems are less nimble than emerging UAS technology, we should integrate UAS into national airspaces in a way that complements current manned aircraft systems.


According to the FAA UAS registration data, unmanned aircraft already outnumber manned aircraft. If drone operations will outnumber operations by manned aircraft by several orders of magnitude, new paradigms must develop to manage air traffic at scale. The vast majority of unmanned operations will be able to be managed programmatically with relevant flight data (weather, obstacles, restrictions, etc.) consistently available.

Identification, Authentication, Security, Transparency and ultimately, Accountability

For both manned and unmanned flight, accountability is mandatory. Identification and transparency are critical for pilot accountability. For identity to work in a mostly programmatic environment, secure authentication standards should be implemented.  Such standards implemented at scale will mitigate public concerns about drone operations at scale.

Where does AirMap fit in?

AirMap’s Digital Notice and Awareness System (D-NAS) is a low-altitude awareness and communication platform for UAS operations near controlled airspace. D-NAS delivers safety-critical information for digital notices to airport operations personnel. D-NAS is hardware agnostic, easy to use, secure, and built by pilots.

How D-NAS works:

  1. Drone operator logs in to personal AirMap Account
  2. Drone operator creates a flight. If operating within 5 miles of airport, drone operator can submit digital flight notice.
  3. D-NAS pushes automated messages based on rules airports pre-populate within their airspace.
  4. Communication is established and drone operator and airport can interact via SMS text messaging.

Additionally, drone operators may choose to make their flights “Public” to appear on AirMap’s iOS and Web apps.

Next Steps

AirMap, along with 31 other companies/groups, have partnered as founding members of the Global UTM Standardization Group to draft and distribute the interoperability blueprint of UAS Traffic Management. Members include regulators, air navigation service providers, drone manufacturers, drone operators, infrastructure service providers and academic experts.

Learn more about the European UTM Conference here: