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.
A Research Transition Team (RTT) has been established between the FAA, NASA and industry to coordinate the UTM initiative. Areas of focus include concept and use case development, data exchange and information architecture, communications and navigation, and sense and avoid. Research and testing will identify airspace operations requirements to enable safe visual and beyond visual line-of-sight UAS flights in low-altitude airspace. Read the FAA's UAS Traffic Management Research Transition Team Plan (January 31, 2017) (PDF).
This activity supports Section 2208 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 (PDF), which directs the FAA to coordinate with NASA on the development of a research plan for UAS UTM.
How will a UAS traffic management system (UTM) work?
UTM is how airspace will be managed to enable multiple UAS operations conducted beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), where air traffic services are not provided. The FAA, NASA and industry are partnering to develop UTM to support the real-time or near-real-time organization, coordination, and management of primarily low altitude (< 400 ft AGL) UAS operations.
With UTM, there is a cooperative interaction between operators and the FAA to determine and communicate real-time airspace status. The FAA provides real-time constraints to the UAS operators, who are responsible for managing their operations safely within these constraints without receiving positive air traffic control services from the FAA. The primary means of communication and coordination between the FAA, operators and other stakeholders is through a distributed network of highly automated systems via application programming interfaces (API), and not between pilots and air traffic controllers via voice.
What is the current status of a UTM? When does FAA expect a UTM to be complete?
The FAA is currently in acquisition for the first step of a UTM system, the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which supports air traffic control authorization requirements for UAS operations conducted under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (part 101e) and the Small UAS Rule (part 107). The current airport notification and airspace authorization processes are manual for the small UAS. LAANC will provide part 101 & 107 UAS operators a streamlined solution to enable real time automated notification and authorization.
Concurrently, the FAA and NASA have developed a joint UTM Research Plan to document research objectives and map out the development of UTM. NASA is conducting research at UAS test sites to further explore UTM capabilities that will accommodate rulemaking as it expands opportunities for UAS integration. The FAA expects that UTM capabilities will be implemented incrementally over the next several years.
- UAS Traffic Management Research Transition Team Plan (January 31, 2017)
- NASA's UTM webpage: https://utm.arc.nasa.gov/