According to a Federal Aviation Association official at the FAA Symposium, there are 10 times more drones registered in the US than manned aircraft.
The FAA, NASA, other federal partner agencies, and industry are collaboratively exploring concepts of operation, data exchange requirements, and a supporting framework to enable multiple beyond visual line-of-sight UAS operations at low altitudes (under 400 ft above ground level (AGL)) in airspace where FAA air traffic services are not provided.
UTM is a "traffic management" ecosystem for uncontrolled operations that is separate but complementary to the FAA's Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. UTM development will ultimately identify services, roles/responsibilities, information architecture, data exchange protocols, software functions, infrastructure, and performance requirements for enabling the management of low-altitude uncontrolled UAS operations.
Amazon, Boeing, GE, and Google announced that they are ready to start working on the development of a private Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system for drones. Testing in conjunction with NASA is supposed to start in the next three months. The system will enable swarms of drones to fly a couple of hundred feet above the ground using cellular and web applications to avoid collisions and allow for remote tracking.
Gur Kimchi, vice president of Amazon Prime Air said that for many of the engineering challenges, "the technology to do this is basically off the shelf," and that it could "take a year or two" to solve the biggest challenges of creating a drone air traffic management system. Using similar technology as is used in self-driving cars, drones would be able to resolve conflicting flight paths with the help of the UTM, leaving no work to be done for human air traffic controllers.
The need for a drone UTM is rising as the number of drones is growing rapidly. Currently, more than one million drones are registered with the FAA for recreational use. A number that is expected to grow exponentially over the next few years. On the commercial side, around 70,000 have been registered by some 1,500 professional drone pilots and companies.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced Tuesday it will expand testing of a prototype system for automatically processing requests from drone operators to fly near airports. The agency will roll out the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability at about 300 air traffic facilities by mid-September, said FAA Administrator Dan Elwell at the annual UAS Symposium.