How Deep Linking Provides Increased Accessibility for Uncrewed Systems into our Airspace
Airbus Uncrewed Traffic Management (UTM) is making it easier and safer for drones to fly among traditional aircraft in national airspace with an approach called deep linking.
The FAA & LAANC
With the accelerating development of uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), safely integrating small drones among traditional aircraft is increasingly important. The FAA developed the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) as part of its UAS Data Exchange, a collaboration between the government and the wider aviation industry to share and manage airspace information as UAS traffic management continues to develop.
LAANC provides operators with awareness of where to fly in controlled airspace under 400 feet and increasingly automated approval to do so. It also informs air traffic professionals of where and when drones will operate. Entities approved to provide services, like Airbus UTM, are known as FAA Approved UAS Service Suppliers (USS).
(LAANC is available to UAS flying under the Small UAS Rule Part 107 or under the Recreational Flyers exception. More information regarding LAANC-qualifying UAS can be found here.)
What is deep linking?
As an FAA-approved USS, Airbus UTM provides LAANC to operators via third-party deep linking integration with Airbus UTM partners. This endeavor is in line with Airbus UTM’s mission of creating digital services to support safe, fair, and efficient future airspace that is accessible to all operators.
Deep linking – effectively an application programming interface (API) – now allows operators to use their own tools to not only make flight plans, but request airspace access as well. Without deep linking, operators are forced to use multiple applications to complete their mission – but with it, operators can continue to use their native software to both make flight plans and request airspace access, making compliance convenient and dramatically lessening air traffic control’s workload.
This digital integration of a LAANC provider and a third party makes airspace more accessible by meeting pilots where they are rather than making them leave their native applications to request LAANC authorization through another service. It streamlines the approval and access process for operators, minimizing calls and clicks needed to receive airspace access authorization. This convenience allows Airbus UTM to connect more operators to LAANC, ultimately making the airspace more accessible, while helping operators stay safe.
In practice, this means operators can use platforms like DroneDeploy, for example, to plan their missions utilizing DroneDeploy’s technology and directly request airspace authorization from the FAA without leaving the DroneDeploy app.
DroneDeploy explained that, once a drone operator has planned a flight, they can quickly view and evaluate the safety of local airspace, check any briefings, and request LAANC authorization directly from the DroneDeploy app, regardless of the device the operator is using.
Airspace authorization requests are checked against FAA rules and a variety of airspace restrictions. Once approved, operators receive their authorizations almost in real time. Currently, the LAANC program only supports visual line of sight (VLOS) operations but Airbus is working with the FAA to enable beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations in time.
How will it change airspace?
The user experience of an operator is a significant factor in the success of UTM. Deep linking facilitates the digital exchange of information between the FAA and operators, with a goal of creating a more seamless experience for the operator. This not only improves convenience for the operator, it also encourages safety by making regulatory compliance easier.
According to DroneDeploy, having an airspace briefing indicator, for example, clearly visible on the flight planning screen offers operators seamless visibility of any airspace conflicts, thereby making it straightforward for them to request the appropriate authorization and stay compliant.
Not only does this make requests and authorizations seamless, but, since first integrating LAANC into DroneDeploy in 2020, the company has reported that Enterprise drone flights and operators have nearly tripled, and LAANC authorizations granted in DroneDeploy have increased 20% year over year.
Airbus UTM’s deep linking represents a first step toward a more fully autonomous interaction between machines and systems like LAANC. While there are still humans involved in the process, this approach moves towards the ultimate goal of fully automated application and approval of airspace access requests. It also provides an efficient operator-oriented solution to the growing number of UAS operators seeking access to national airspace. The approach facilitates regulatory compliance, further promoting safety and efficiency as the industry continues to develop a larger UAS traffic management architecture.
Deep linking is a novel approach for the FAA – and it has been some time in the making – but this first step has opened the door, giving other parties an example of how to similarly facilitate safe UAS access to airspace.