Managing the world’s unmanned drone fleets

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Airport Technology on .

In June this year, Inmarsat and Altitude Angel announced a new partnership that will look to develop an advanced flight tracking and management capability for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be used by emergency services. 

The former is a global mobile satellite communications provider, while the latter is specialised in unmanned traffic management (UTM) technology. Together, they’re coming up with a system that can remotely manage drones when they’re beyond visual line of sight. This ‘pop-up UTM capability’ removes the need for a ground-based communications infrastructure. It relies on Altitude Angel’s GuardianUTM platform and Inmarsat’s range of satellites to provide operators with visibility from a remote location. 

As the drone market continues to expand to a range of commercial and private applications – with experts forecasting its value to reach $129.23bn by 2025 – the duo is hoping to pave the way for broader adoption of UAVs, especially in the aftermath of Covid-19. With more and more companies getting on board with the technology, aviation could soon follow. 

Managing drones from afar in critical situations

Inmarsat and Altitude Angel’s technology is being developed with blue light emergency services in mind. When disaster strikes, these organisations usually have very little time to prepare for what awaits them.

“Quite often it takes the [entire] ground network to intervene and communications can be extremely difficult to handle in [a critical] area,” explains Altitude Angel head of air traffic management Phil Binks. “There’s [a lot of] urgency to find out the extent of the natural disaster and how it’s affecting people.” 

Current response procedures include sending over helicopters to provide some initial situational awareness, followed by staff. However, handling these operations is often complicated, time-consuming and expensive. “An alternative is to fly drones in the area to get initial footage and get an

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