Managing Drone Traffic Over Singapore’s Skies

The Traffic Management of Unmanned Aircraft Systems initiative is researching how the rules that govern the sky should be crafted.

AsianScientist (Jan. 5, 2017) – Researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) are studying ways to allow unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones to efficiently and safely navigate the country’s limited airspace and dense population.

A new initiative named Traffic Management of Unmanned Aircraft Systems has been launched by NTU’s Air Traffic Management Research Institute (ATMRI). The research program, led by NTU Professor Low Kin Huat and ATMRI Senior Research Fellow Mr. Mohamed Faisal Bin Mohamed Salleh, aims to develop a drone traffic management system consisting designated air-lanes and blocks, similar to how cars on the roads have traffic lights and lanes.

Low said it is important to develop a traffic management solution for drones tailored to actual challenges faced by Singapore given the huge growth of drone traffic expected over the next decade.

“At NTU, we have already demonstrated viable technologies such as UAV convoys, formation flying and logistics, which will soon become mainstream,” he explained. “This new traffic management project will test some of the new concepts developed with the aim of achieving safe and efficient drone traffic in our urban airways.”

“The implications of the project will have far reaching consequences, as we are developing ways for seamless travel of unmanned aircrafts for different purposes without compromising safety, which is of paramount importance.”

To ensure that traffic is regulated across the whole of Singapore, a possible solution is the establishment of coordinating stations for drone traffic. These stations can then track all the drones that are in the air, schedule the traffic flow, monitor their speeds and ensure a safe separation between the drones.

One proposed strategy is to use the current infrastructure such as open fields for take-off and landing and having drones fly above buildings and HDB flats, which can act as emergency landing sites to minimize risk to the public.

The researchers will test out several concepts, such as geofencing. The idea is to set up virtual fences where drones can be automatically routed around a restricted geographical location such as the airport.

Another important research area will be collision detection. Drone will need to have sensors that enable detection and avoidance of collision. This will allow them to follow a set of actions to avoid any mid-air incidents, such as flying above, below, or around other drones.

Spanning a period of four years, the project is expected to complete its initial phase of conceptual design and software simulation by end 2017, followed by test bedding of the solutions developed.


Source: Nanyang Technological University; Photo: Pixabay.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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