back to article How do you get drones talking to air traffic controllers? Pretty easily, says Brit startup

Drone flight management app Altitude Angel is quietly cornering the challenging market in connecting drone traffic management to traditional air traffic control systems, its founder has told The Register. The startup aims to bridge the gap between unmanned traffic management (UTM, the art of stopping drones from colliding with …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Opening up air traffic control systems to the Internet - what could possibly go wrong?

  2. Herring`

    A start would be outfitting such drones with TCAS. IF you trigger that too many times in commercial aircraft then you won't be popular though

    1. Brenda McViking

      The same TCAS that is so expensive to fit that only aircraft costing half a million tend to come with it as standard? and that doesn't work well with non-equipped light aircraft? Yeah, not a realistic solution, sorry. Even the comparitively cheap FLARM collision avoidance used by gliders would be an huge ask for drones, the lightest, cheapest model currently weighing in at a hefty (for a drone) 160g, the size of 3 stacked iphones and costing northwards of 700GBP just for the main circuit without an antenna.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        FLARM systems could be built much smaller, but unfortunately right now only the expensive, heavy and large PowerFlarm systems are available new from the manufacturer. Mostly, it seems, because FLARM is are a bunch of money grubbing ass-hats. Also, I wouldn't want FLARM to become any sort of official standard since it's proprietary and the FLARM company has shown to be idiots when it comes to safety (like bringing out an update that stops updated units from talking to unupgraded units and initially preventing some old units from being updated in the first place. Great, a anti collision system where half the equipped aircraft can't see the other half and all of the equipped aircraft STILL can't see the unequipped aircraft.

        (No, as a glider pilot I'm not a fan of Flarm. I can see the advantage when stuck to a hillside/ridge at 160 km/h, but over relatively flat land like north and west germany, the Netherlands and northern france imho its actually detrimental to safety as it stops pilots having a good lookout. I've experienced too many times where FLARM gives either false alarms or no alarm when it should)

  3. Tromos


    I thought I had a rich uncle. But he's only got a two-seat Cessna.

    1. Ochib

      Re: Bugger!

      I thought I had a rich uncle. But he has only got a glider

    2. SunfflePungus

      Re: Bugger!

      I couldn't afford a two-seat Cessna. So, I bought a Ferrari.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Drone overload

    The problem I see is that drone flight plans will eventually outnumber the regular flight plans by orders of magnitude. Then how would the regular ATC humans cope with these? Sounds like denial of service in the making.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Drone overload

      >Sounds like denial of service in the making.

      Especially if every drone in a swarm needs an individual flight plan...

    2. SkippyBing

      Re: Drone overload

      'Then how would the regular ATC humans cope with these?'

      I'd guess by filtering, the majority of drone flights are going to be <400' which frankly ATC aren't interested in. In fact the only thing they'll probably be interested in is when the drone isn't following its filed flight plan and is above 400'.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Drone overload

      agree, ATC is classed as one of the most stressful jobs going. If suddenly another 500 items appeared on the screen, I would think they poor folks would be on their way to the mortuary even more quickly.

    4. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Drone overload

      As said, I suspect these flights will be filtered from the normal views and only shown when it strays from it's filed flight path by an automated system. A similar problem happened about 2 years back when mode-s transponders became mandatory on gliders. Turns out ATC couldn't handle a few thousand extra gliders on their screen on a sunny day and very quickly all glider traffic was filtered out. The big aircraft TCAS systems now also usually filter out GA mode-S signals unless they are on a direct and close collision course (>30s from collision iirc).

  5. Fursty Ferret

    In some respects this project is missing the point. Controlled airspace isn't actually that extensive in the UK - we're talking about a relatively small diameter around some airfields, a protected area for instrument approaches, and airways / holds (all of which are relatively high level (5000ft and above, really).

    So the first question to ask is: why does a drone operator want access to controlled airspace in the first place? In general unless you're right next to an airport you can happily fly your drone to about 1000ft AGL with reasonable confidence you won't cause a problem, and even if you did see a Cessna or something bumbling through the area you could drop your drone's height below 500ft pretty quickly.

    Even if this is hypothetical planning for some new super-drone carrying passengers, there's again no reason why it would require access to controlled airspace. Emergency? Land it in a field and call for help on a phone.

    This is a solution looking for a problem, IMHO.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Here in Dundee that means the entire waterfront from Broughty Ferry Castle on the point to the Westernmost edges since that is the approach path for the airport. Aircraft are descending to land along there. I'm not sure how far back from the waterfront you have to be to be safe, but that puts you 60-80m up the hill. The waterfront, especially the beach front is an obvious place to fly a drone, and a kite. But don't stray too far East for there is Barry Buddon a triangle of sandy land which is home to a military firing range including a marine exclusion zone. Fly a drone near there while the flags are up for live firing might attract unwanted attention/shootdown.

      Outside operations it would probably be okay, they let you wander around.

      Oh yes, occasionally up the hill here there's the whop-whop of a chinook, not too high, On a path to RMS Condor outside Arbroath. They used to fly sea harriers out of there, used to. I expect they might not be too happy to be buzzed by a drone either.

      Where then can I safely and legally fly my drone?

  6. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Information overload?

    All gliders to be tracked; too much information, so ignored. All drones to be tracked; even more too much information so swamping the glider information and also to be ignored. All the tracking information needs to be stored for future analysis or what is the point? Otherwise by the time you realise there was a problem/incident the information has gone. So, infrastructure.

    Is this starting to sound familiar?

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