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Inmarsat & Altitude Angel to collaborate on drone air traffic management system
Altitude Angel, an unmanned traffic management (UTM) technology provider, and London-based Inmarsat, a world leader in global mobile satellite communications, have announced a collaboration to develop and deliver advanced flight tracking and management capability for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones.
The two UK companies will build on Altitude Angel’s GuardianUTM platform to jointly develop a ‘Pop-Up UTM’ capability that can be deployed anywhere it is required to manage beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) UAV flights, without the need for ground-based communications infrastructure.
By utilising Inmarsat’s world-leading global network of satellites and leveraging its substantial experience in air traffic management communications, Altitude Angel’s Pop-Up UTM can be accessed rapidly and deployed worldwide.
The Pop-Up UTM will be developed initially to address the unmanned traffic management needs of blue light emergency services and first responders who need aerial surveillance rapidly with little notice, with a commercial, industry-focused product to follow soon after. Emergency services will be able to manage drones remotely, increasing their range of safe operations in mixed airspace containing manned and unmanned vehicles.
Anthony Spouncer, Inmarsat Aviation’s senior director of UAVs & UTM, said: “Inmarsat is excited to partner with Altitude Angel on this ground-breaking technology, which allows UAV flights to operate quickly, efficiently and safely.
“Inmarsat is uniquely positioned to act as a catalyst for the safe and rapid growth of the unmanned aerial systems sector due to our state-of-the-art global satellite network, decades of experience in keeping aircraft safe through communications, navigation and surveillance services, and relationships with air traffic management providers worldwide. We also bring first-hand experience of working with international aid organisations to deliver emergency communications in remote areas.”
Phil Binks, head of air traffic management at Altitude Angel, added: “The ability to almost instantly ‘pop-up’ safe, secure and fully operational UTM platforms in any environment, at any time, will give first responders, blue light services and aid organisations a valuable new tool that could save countless lives. Altitude Angel and Inmarsat, in developing ‘Pop-Up UTM’, will be able to bring connectivity, clarity and automated air traffic control services for UAVs in even the most challenging of circumstances.”
Altitude Angel is able to adapt existing services to work on higher latency, lower bandwidth networks and enable ‘mode switching’ to ensure a robust communications link with deployed vehicles is always maintained. This provides emergency services and first responders with the ability to have a single source point-of-truth where UAVs and piloted aviation can be coordinated on the same platform.
Altitude Angel is part of the CAA’s ‘Innovation Sandbox’, a collaboration of industry leaders gathering evidence to demonstrate beyond visual line of sight UAV flight operations can be performed safely. Some of the trials with Altitude Angel and the CAA have been taking place in the Isle of Wight.