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Switzerland First Country with Nationwide UTM to Launch Medical Drone Delivery Program

BY Zacc Dukowitz
20 June 2018

Switzerland recently announced the first drone delivery program enabled by a nationwide integrated airspace system, or UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management system), which they call the Swiss U-space.

The medical items to be delivered in this new program include time-sensitive medical laboratory samples and urgently-needed medication. The deliveries will take place between Tiefenau Hospital and University Hospital Insel in the city of Bern, Switzerland, with the Swiss Post responsible for the daily operations of these deliveries.

Image source

This drone delivery program is the result of a collaboration between the Swiss Post, the national postal service of Switzerland, delivery drone manufacturer Matternet, and Insel Group, the largest leading medical care system in Switzerland.

One of the primary challenge for normalizing drone deliveries is that they require routine BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) flights.

For these kinds of flights to be safe, a UTM or some other mechanism must be in place to avoid collisions with other aircraft—and that’s where Switzerland’s Swiss U-space comes in.

[PrecisionHawk unveiled an innovative solution for BVLOS at AUVSI earlier this year that doesn’t require UTM—learn more about that over here.]

On a related note, NASA has been working on a UTM, and has been making serious progress. Their timeline proposes plans to integrate UTM with airspace in urban areas in the U.S. by 2019, and is due for delivery to the FAA next year.

About Swiss U-space

Swiss U-space, Switzerland’s nationwide integrated airspace system, was created in a collaboration between AirMap and skyguide with “a shared vision of safely opening the skies for drones and commerce.”

Swiss U-space includes sophisticated services for drones and others who share the airspace, including dynamic geofencing, instant digital airspace authorization, solutions for situational awareness, and more, powered by the AirMap UTM platform.

We see great economic and social potential in drones. The so-called U-space, which skyguide is developing together with AirMap, provides drones with this secure access, making projects such as those of Matternet and Swiss Post possible.

– Robert Fraefel, skyguide Drone Expert


Shots of AirMap’s UTM platform in action

The first demonstration of Swiss U-space was made back in September of 2017 in Geneva, and included:

  • E-registration and e-identification;
  • Integration with skyguide’s air traffic control radar system;
  • Flight planning and dynamic situational awareness;
  • Access to geo-information and geofencing before and during flight;
  • Airspace authorization and flight management;
  • Tracking and live telemetry;
  • As well as other flight-critical services for drone operators and other airspace stakeholders.

The medical deliveries announced for the city of Bern constitute a pilot program. According to AirMap, if the pilot program is a success these medical deliveries will be expanded to the city of Zurich next.

As their progress continues, Switzerland may well become the first country to allow regular UTM-enabled BVLOS flights for various reasons—not just deliveries, but inspections and surveys as well—in the world.

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