Switzerland’s new air traffic control system to put drones, planes in same skies

Switzerland is way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to drones. The country has already used drones to transport lab samples between hospitals and given the necessary approvals for drone deliveries in populated areas. Now, the nation appears to be in line for another world’s first as it will integrate drones into its air traffic management system.

This system will track drones and register drone operators in order to make the airspace safer, whether it’s for unmanned aerial vehicles or, well, much larger manned aerial vehicles.

The initiative will spread its wings in June 2018, when Swiss air traffic control operator Skyguide will start merging its own data and traffic management applications with the digital airspace-mapping platform developed by California-based AirMap Inc. AirMap is the world’s leading global airspace management platform for drones, with existing integration with drones developed by DJI, 3D Robotics, Yuneec, and others.

The project is part of U-space, a European effort aimed at laying down the digital infrastructure to support safe and secure access to European skies for millions of drones. The part of the project debuting in jube is described as a pilot phase (no pun intended), after which Skyguide and AirMap will work together to develop a road map for deploying a fully operational drone traffic management system in 2019.

“With Swiss U-space, Switzerland aims to safely open the skies for drone commerce,” said Ben Marcus, CEO of AirMap, in a statement.

There are a number of innovative aspects to the project, such as blockchain-based registration for users and drones, real-time alerts for drone pilots, and dynamic geofencing and instant digital airspace authorization.

“The establishment of a U-space is the key to improve drone operations’ safety and to satisfy the security and privacy concerns of our citizens,” said Christian Hegner, director general of Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation, in a statement. “In order to achieve these objectives, a seamless cooperation between all the partners involved is crucial. I am glad to see that a further important step to tackle this challenge was taken today.”

Depending on how Switzerland’s trials go, we cold potentially see similar initiatives arrive in the U.S. Maybe then we’ll finally get to see those Amazon Prime Air drone deliveries we’ve been dreaming of.