FAA To Field Test Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management Capabilities

Administration says that lessons learned during the UTM field tests will be used to support the development of new policies.

The Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) field test is set to launch in the spring and continue into 2023. [File Photo: Adobe Stock]

In a bid to further integrate drones into the national airspace system, the FAA will soon launch field tests of unmanned aircraft traffic management capabilities, the agency recently said.

The Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) field test, which is set to launch in the spring and continue into 2023, is expected to lead to new policies and the development of updated industry standards for drones operating beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), according to the agency.

The UTM field tests will include multiple drone flights in realistic scenarios with the goal of learning more about drone traffic management in varying flight environments.

The drones tested will be fixed-wing and multirotor aircraft under 55 pounds, the FAA told FLYING

UTM is a traffic management ecosystem for small unmanned aircraft that enables multiple beyond visual line-of-sight drone operations at low altitudes under 400 feet above ground level in airspace without FAA air traffic services. While separate from the FAA's Air Traffic Management System, UTM is complementary to it, the agency said.

With the proliferation of drone use comes a stout list of unmanned aircraft sightings, which "have increased dramatically over the past two years," according to the FAA. 

In the last two months of 2021, the FAA received nearly 500 UAS reports. In late December, for example, a large white UAS orbiting at 200 feet at Seaworld Amusement Park in San Diego prompted all northwest departures to deviate around it, according to the FAA's log of reported incidents.

"After completion of the UTM Field Test, the FAA will use lessons learned to continue to support the development of new policies, industry standards, and inform future rules to allow drones to routinely fly beyond visual line of sight of the operators," a FAA spokesperson said.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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