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Switzerland Plans to Launch Automated Airspace Authorization System that Mimics FAA’s LAANC Program in the U.S.

BY Isabella Lee
20 March 2019

Skyguide, the Swiss air navigation service provider, and AirMap, the leading global airspace management platform for drones, have begun trials of automated flight authorizations for integrating drones into the Swiss national airspace.

Swiss U Space

Automated airspace authorizations are a game-changer for drone pilots. The ability to obtain real-time, almost instantaneous authorization to fly in controlled airspace means that certified drone pilots are able to get up and flying faster and take on more jobs.

Dozens of companies have entered the market to provide airspace authorization and flight operation management services for drone operators. One of those companies is AirMap, which has established itself as one of the most trusted providers of airspace data and flight management tools. Much of their credibility comes from their partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to develop the nation-wide Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program in the United States.

AirMap was one of the first suppliers the FAA brought on to test the prototype of LAANC in 2017 and has seen the partnership through to the successful, final LAANC installment in September 2018. Now, AirMap is pushing forward a similar project in Switzerland called U-space.

AirMap and Skyguide Launch U-Space Trial Phase in Switzerland

Earlier this month, AirMap and Skyguide began a trial phase of U-space, representing the first instantiation of a fully automated digital authorization service for drone flights outside of the United States.

The automated and manual flight authorization service AirMap and Skyguide are developing in Switzerland builds upon experience gained with the FAA’s successful LAANC program. Commercial drone operators in the United States receive fast airspace authorization to fly in controlled airspace under 400 feet from their LAANC supplier of choice. AirMap is one of 14 LAANC service suppliers used by drone operators in the U.S. to request ATC authorization to fly in controlled airspace within seconds.

Digital and automated airspace authorization is a critical enabler for scaling high-value drone operations. We’ve experienced this first-hand through our work with the FAA in the United States, and we are proud to be working with Skyguide to bring this capability to the Swiss drone community.

—Ben Marcus, Co-founder and Chairman, AirMap

As part of the trial phase, select drone operators in Switzerland can request automated and manual flight authorization to fly in two airspaces controlled by Skyguide in the cantons of Lugano and Geneva through the Skyguide U-space mobile application, provided by AirMap, as well as AirMap APIs integrated in third-party applications.

Switzerland Automated Airspace Authorization

The trial phase follows the announcement of a partnership between Skyguide and AirMap in March 2018 to develop and deploy the first national drone traffic management system in Europe.

Already, Skyguide and AirMap have demonstrated the effectiveness of U-space for high-value drone operations, including drone deliveries of medical supplies. Matternet and Swiss Post have been using Skyguide services to transport time-sensitive medical laboratory samples via drone between hospitals in Lugano since May 2018. Swiss Post and Matternet worked with the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), the entity responsible for establishing Switzerland’s drone laws, to conduct these drone deliveries. Matternet will participate in AirMap and Skyguide’s current U-Space trial.

More Flight Operation Management Tools On the Way for Drone Pilots in Switzerland

Airspace authorization isn’t the only capability AirMap and Skyguide are working on implementing into the U-space app.

The trial phase will also test U1, U2, and some U3 services including:

  • E-registration
  • E-identification
  • Pre-tactical geofencing
  • Flight Planning
  • Real-time Traffic and Tracking
  • Dynamic Geofencing
  • Communications and Emergency services
  • And more

These capabilities provide the building blocks of a fully operational drone traffic management system for Switzerland.

Launch Timeline for Swiss U-Space

Skyguide plans to officially launch the Swiss U-space in June of 2019.

The trial phase enables us to gain vital information and experience with selected users live in the field and therefore to make sure that this pioneering system is running smoothly and reliably when launched in June.

—Robert Fraefel, U-Space Project Lead, Skyguide

The Swiss U-space platform includes an open interface enabling multiple U-space Service Providers to connect to core U-space services provided by Skyguide Flight Information Management System (FIMS) to promote an open and competitive drone economy.

Together with the FOCA in Switzerland, Skyguide and AirMap have developed the Swiss U-space reference architecture, contributing to the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU).

SESAR JU is the European U-space standardization effort to promote an open industry platform for drone traffic management. They drafted the U-space blueprint to set a vision for the U-space. See their vision come to life in the video below.

U-space: Aiming to enable complex drone operations with a high degree of automation

Share your thoughts on Swiss U-Space and how its automatic airspace authorization features may compare to the FAA’s LAANC in this thread on our community forum.

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