Global stakeholders came together to discuss what lies ahead for the UTM and drone services sector in the United States

At the end of a year full of novelties for the drone ecosystem – that culminated in the adoption of the European Commission’s Drone Strategy 2.0 – the global UTM industry discussed the future of the US drone services market and regulations at GUTMA’s US Harmonized Skies Conference “The US way, from exemption to rule” on December 13-14, 2022.

The two-day event encompassed the benefits of establishing a regulatory framework and certification processes as compared to the exemption process currently in place in the United States, as well as on future evolutions. The peculiar nature of the exemption system has been subject to analyses and comparisons with alternative regulatory approaches in Europe and the Asian and Pacific regions. We discussed the composition of the US UTM and drone services market and its role as a global trailblazer, providing the audience with an overview of the world’s leading commercial setting for the drone ecosystem.

The conference welcomed the main US companies and institutional stakeholders representing the sector and featured representatives of foreign corporate and governmental entities to put the US model into perspective. The ultimate goal was for all the parties involved to share policy and governance best practices on how to achieve Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations (BVLOS). We need BVLOS to automate and scale operations to support the growth of the industry and achieve the disruptive potential of the digital drone services.

The White House, echoed by the US Department of Transportation and the FAA, expressed a sense of urgency to establish a UTM system. Grant Farnsworth of the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the Executive Office of the President used the word “inflection point” to democratize the airspace in close collaboration with the relevant stakeholders. Jay Merkle of the FAA used the words “Stay tuned on rulemaking”. And Peter Sachs, also of the FAA, confirmed that now the FAA is ready to engage with industry and show a path to demonstrate safe operations.
Both institutional and corporate stakeholders reaffirmed the necessity of having an open and harmonized UTM services market. In this regard, GUTMA  has been widely recognized as a crucial player for the democratization and harmonization of global skies.

Koen De Vos, GUTMA Secretary General, confirmed “BVLOS – Beyond Visual Line of Sight – operations open the drone services market.  As a matter of urgency, we need open, interoperable and harmonized UTM service markets. UTM will scale and automate drone operations and keep them safe and secure. GUTMA is ready to spread best practices around the globe.”

The event offered first-hand insights from representatives coming from institutional authorities like the White House, the US Department of Transportation, the US Federal Aviation Administration, NASA, Japan’s Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Innovation, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA). NUAIR and the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership joined the institutional partners. On the industry side, the conference welcomed speakers from some of the world’s leading actors, such as DroneUp, Wing, Manna Drone Delivery, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, ANRA Technologies, Aloft, TruWeather Solutions, Zipline, OneSky, Unifly and HHLA.

Together, these players shared visions, forecasts and hopes regarding the present and the future of the US and global skies. The result of this unparalleled networking and collaboration setup was that of bridging different approaches to ensure that any future regulatory development will prioritize the sustainability of the sector, allowing for more scalable UTM and drone services.

Matching the need for safety with that of an all-encompassing legal framework ensuring competition in the sector will have to be at the center of rule-makers’ agenda. In this regard, the US UTM Conference represented an important milestone for collaboration within the industry and between governmental and rule-making institutions.

The skies of tomorrow will be built over cooperation for the sake of safety and competition. GUTMA is proud to represent a community willing to come together to ensure the establishment of a level playing field capable of generating growth and improving people’s lives.

We would like to once again thank the event’s main partner DroneUp, its supporting partner Wing and its sponsors: Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, ANRA Technologies and Manna Drone Delivery.

Finally, we take the opportunity to thank all the speakers, the companies and the institutions that gave their contribution to make the conference one of the biggest industry events of the year.