The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently released its Congressionally-mandated strategy for the implementation of unmanned aircraft systems traffic management (UTM) services.

Section 376 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, Public Law No. 115-254 (referred to as “Sec. 376” in this document), mandates the FAA to create and present to Congress a strategy for enabling the utilization of UTM services, allowing operations that go beyond the range of visual line of sight. This strategy must ensure the comprehensive functionality of UTM services while prioritizing the safety and protection of all aircraft. In response to this legislative directive, the FAA presents the UTM Implementation Plan for unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones. This plan outlines the FAA’s endeavors to realize UTM, detailing its immediate and extended plans. Furthermore, this document addresses the regulatory gaps that necessitate resolution to achieve the state of “full operational capability” for UTM.

This Plan’s structure mirrors the information sequence outlined in Sec. 376. The initial section, the introduction, concisely outlines key definitions and policy determinations from the FAA’s 2020 UTM Concept of Operations (ConOps) Version 2. It also highlights several overarching policy domains that remain uncertain concerning UTM deployment, draws attention to insights gained from research initiatives like the UTM Pilot Program (UPP), and provides a synopsis of ongoing agency initiatives linked to UTM implementation.

Section 2 explains the correlation between industry benchmarks for UTM services and the FAA’s need to formulate “safety standards” or benchmarks to facilitate the UTM ecosystem.

Proceeding to Section 3, this segment initially delineates the distinct roles and responsibilities of the FAA and the industry concerning executing and launching UTM services. It then provides an overview of the FAA’s present regulatory framework. It identifies the gaps intrinsic to regulating UTM services, necessitating the development of regulations and a novel regulatory route for these services.

Section 4 comprehensively covers the advantages of safety, reductions in risk, and attendant considerations concerning implementation and policy that pertain to various anticipated UTM capabilities.

Lastly, Section 5 furnishes a concise overview of the ongoing refinement by the FAA of the immediate approval process. This refinement aims to recognize and enable UTM services in conjunction with operational waivers and exemptions, to inform rulemaking and satisfy the stipulations of Sec. 377.

The FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) Implementation Plan is attached below.

See Also- ICAO Releases UTM Common Framework

Post Image- High Level UTM Architecture (Image Credit: Federal Aviation Administration)