We talked to Leon van de Pas, CEO of Unifly, about his vision on the industry challenges and Unifly’s involvement in GUTMA
What is Unifly and what is its role and involvement within GUTMA?
Unifly is a Belgian-based software company started by 4 aviation experts to create an Unmanned Traffic Management system that safely integrates the growing volume of drone traffic around the world. Our clients are predominantly aviation authorities like ANSPs, and site owners of critical infrastructure such as ports. We have successfully implemented our system on a large-scale basis for commercial projects worldwide.
Unifly has been a long running member of GUTMA, supporting the common goals of developing UTM through participation in working groups, and providing feedback and insights for the industry especially in terms of regulatory principles and initiatives.
According to you, what are the biggest industry challenges at the moment?
In the coming years, we face the challenge of merging different airspace users into one single airspace. As unmanned and soon autonomous vehicles arrive, the traffic across all 3 dimensions will significantly increase. ATM and UTM will have to find a way to exchange information on an unprecedented scale. Ultimately, we might evolve to a fully integrated ‘unified traffic management’. Besides this, the involvement of local authorities and stakeholders will be crucial to implement a sustainable drone ecosystem, especially in urban environments.
A word about the need to be working along the full ecosystem/value-chain?
Our skies are only going to get busier. The whole ecosystem of aviation authorities, regulators, U-space service providers, and industry players must collaborate and operate within an ecosystem that is fully integrated. Managing air traffic is an important technology to optimise interactions between each stakeholder to ensure full situational awareness and that our airspace remains safe and secure. That is why we are so committed to providing that robust interoperable UTM platform to connect all the moving parts seamlessly and efficiently.
ABOUT LEON VAN DE PAS
Leon’s experience in General Management and Sales spans across the globe in various start-ups, scale-ups, and multinational corporations such as Philips, Schlumberger (Gemalto), Tele Atlas (TomTom), and HERE Technologies. With a background in medical, wireless, navigation, lighting, and IoT services, he brings disruptive innovations to market globally, creates winning teams, and manages exceptional growth. Within HERE, Leon led the Consumer Business Group, merged it with the Enterprise Business group into a global IoT Business Group – initiating many new value propositions among others “low altitude 3d mapping” for the drone industry and set up the regional HQ in Singapore. Since August 2020, Leon has been appointed CEO of Unifly to transform this UTM first mover into a scale-up and bring it back to growth. In 2021, Unifly doubled its commercial projects and national deployments (from 5 to 11) and as a result, the revenue grew by 60% in 2021.
As the global-leading provider of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) solutions, Unifly drives technology to advance the safety and efficiency of autonomous aviation in everyday life.
In 2015, a team of pilots, air traffic controllers, and engineers came together to create safe and smart solutions for the growing volume of unmanned traffic in the world. Since then, Unifly has won several awards. Unifly has grown with its presence in many projects involving aviation, ports, and local authorities.
The Unifly platform connects authorities with pilots to safely integrate drones into the airspace. BLIP has been developed as part of our vision for the safe integration of drones. Through electronic Identification and tracking capabilities, BLIP acts as an electronic license plate for a drone.
With tried and tested solutions and experience gained through collaboration, research, and projects on a global scale, Unifly offers clients a scalable and future-proof path towards a full suite of UTM services.
National deployments have gone live in Germany, Belgium, Canada, commencing in Spain, another fourth European country, and many RFQ’s pending for Unifly. In addition, Unifly has commercial systems deployed in the Port of Antwerp, the first commercial UTM system in the middle east which is NEOM in Saudi Arabia, and many RFQ’s pending. Unifly demonstrated the first U-Space interpretation in Europe through DFS/Droniq during the ITS conference last October. Therefore, Unifly is still regarded as the front runner in national deployments and in particular, U-Space implementations.