Finland Successfully Tests Drone Traffic Management System

CanardDrones and Unifly worked with Finland's aviation agency on the tests that indicate strong potential for UAV operations in airport environments.

Unifly

CanardDrones, ANS Finland, and Unifly worked together on six 40-minute drone inspections at Pori Airport in Finland last month. The question was whether or not drones could perform standard operations in a busy airport environment and adapt to the rigors of established airport air traffic through an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system developed by Unifly. According to Unifly's press release, the answer was a resounding confirmation that they could, indeed, flawlessly do so, with time to spare.

If it sounds like this collaborative trial event was testing more than one particular curiosity, you deduced the above correctly. While the country’s regulatory aviation agency, ANS Finland, was able to verify if CanardDrones could successfully inspect airport infrastructure using Unifly’s UTM system, the government was also able to confirm whether or not this management system could safely implement UAVs within airport environments for potential co-existence in those areas in the future. After all, once drones are standardized aerial vehicles and regulated safely enough to use airports as hubs, the proper safety tests and security measures should already be in place.

“There is definitely a demand for such new age operating forms in the near future,” said Pasi Nikama, ANS Finland CCO and CMO. “We are facing a rapidly changing environment where we expect to see more and more Drone operations near and inside ATM [air-traffic management] environment. We are now in the beginning of a new era but we must remember that there are still many steps to be taking [sic] before all new solutions and working methods are in full scale operational use. The tests we made together with CanardDrones and Unifly were really promising and we could definitely see the positive signs in the air.” 

As for the tests themselves, the CanardDrones verified their ability to follow PAPI, the visual guidance system that helps pilots safely land and stay on target, in 5 minutes and 35 seconds. The air traffic controller provided the teams with up to 10 minutes, which goes to show how cleanly and efficiently their collaborative efforts really were. 

“It was truly amazing,” said Rafael Aguado, CanardDrones COO. “We were doing something for the first time in history and all the operation was performed as a ballet. Fast, safe and coordinated.”

Due to Unifly’s cohesive UTM system, the air traffic controller was fully aware of every single drone flight of the demonstration that day, and was able to coordinate and manage them securely alongside his regular duties regarding manned aircraft traffic occurring simultaneously. 

“The demonstration was a complete success with all systems collaborating side by side, reliably and constantly during the very long timeslot,” said Ronni Winkler Østergaard, Unifly’s regional manager for Scandinavia and the Baltics. “We worked alongside for 13 hours and were still able to create very fast interventions in a completely new way. I see this as a historical moment for unmanned aviation.”

There are currently countless companies and aviation agencies across the world working together to develop and establish sophisticated, practical unmanned air traffic management systems. While the FAA projects the commercial drone industry to grow fourfold by 2022, and futurist Thomas Frey predicts a billion drones to take over the planet’s skies by 2030, having a well-tested, reliable UTM in place is of paramount importance. 

Fortunately, seeing companies like Unifly and CanardDrones collaborate on making that a reality, is increasingly common in this industry, as we seemingly all want the same thing; the framework to let this industry take off.