New Air Traffic Control System to Integrate Drones in Switzerland

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Switzerland will be the first country to integrate drones into the air traffic management system for controlling its airspace

Switzerland is already using drones for transferring lab samples to hospitals and necessary approvals for drone deliveries in populated areas of the country. The new project is part of U-space, which is focused on improving digital infrastructure to support safe and secure access to European skies for millions of drones. The project will be in operation from June 2018, with Swiss air traffic control operator Skyguide merging its data and traffic management applications with the digital airspace-mapping platform developed by California-based AirMap Inc. Skyguide and AirMap in collaboration will develop a road map for fully operational drone traffic management system in 2019.

Airspace geofences are GPS-defined and routinely subject to change. Drone pilots are notified via real-time traffic alerts by an AirMap app geofence area is crossed. They are notified through text messages or graphic cues on the tablets or smartphones that UAV pilots typically use to control small drones. On the basis of Switzerland’s trials, potentially similar initiatives are projected in the U.S. using Amazon Prime Air drone.

The new system will track drones and register drone operators in order to make the airspace safe for unmanned aerial vehicles. Various innovative applications of this project include blockchain-based registration for users and drones, real-time alerts for drone pilots, and dynamic geofencing and instant digital airspace authorization. “With Swiss U-space, Switzerland aims to safely open the skies for drone commerce,” said Ben Marcus, CEO of AirMap, in a statement. “The establishment of a U-space is the key to improve drone operations’ safety and to satisfy the security and privacy concerns of our citizens,” said Christian Hegner, director general of Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation.

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