The Future of BVLOS and RTM is officially “Under Construction”

AIRmarket is a founding participant of the RPAS Traffic Management Action Committee (RTMAC) and was excited to participate in RTMAC #5 on June 27, 2023 in NAV CANADA’s offices in Ottawa. The RTMAC is a group of regulators and industry stakeholders who are advancing the agenda and deployment of RPAS Traffic Management (RTM) in Canada.  

At this event, AIRmarket participated in discussions of new low-risk Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) regulations proposed in Canada Gazette 1 (CG1) and the concept of RTM Airspace in Canada. These ongoing discussions helped to align stakeholders and develop a clearer landscape on the future of BVLOS airspace in Canada. The proposed regulations enable low-risk BVLOS flight operations up to 4 nautical miles from the pilot in geographical regions with less than 25 people per square kilometer population density. The use of census based population density (people/km2) provides a quantifiable starting point to assess the inherent ground risks, and will be a significant step forward for enabling the industry, as the green areas in the map visually represent.

In looking beyond these initial BVLOS regulations, as led by Transport Canada, the RTMAC discussed how RPAS Traffic Management (RTM) services could be leveraged as a strategic mitigation framework to gain access to more airspace. The ability to provide RTM services in designated airspace by 3rd parties, would have such a net effect. As depicted below, RTM services could be the enabler to access airspace beyond 4 nautical miles (nm’s) from the pilot, geographical regions with higher population density (>25 people/km2), and controlled airspace governed by NAV CANADA. 

As the demand for airspace access increases, the necessity and reach of RTM services also grow. To meet this demand, the need for a “reference architecture” for aircraft & airspace is being exposed. This reference architecture will include reliable Command and Control (C2), Detect and Avoid (DAA), surveillance of airspace, and Digital Conspicuity for all aircraft. Once the reference architecture for the airspace and aircrafts are aligned, the reach of BVLOS will be accelerated. 

The reference architectures will gain regulatory recognition as proposed in CG1 through the use of Manufacture Delcations (MD) or Pre-Validated Declarations (PVD), as depicted in illustration above. The PVD framework provides aircraft Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) and Service Suppliers with a performance based process to obtain recognition with prior input from Transport Canada. 

AIRmarket is working with industry partners to establish these reference architectures and plan to test them within the next phase of Energy UTM (RTM) Trials – Digital Conspicuity in northern Alberta. The CG1 regulations will require performance declarations from aircraft OEM’s and service suppliers such as RTM, DAA, and C2 as depicted above. The next phase of trials will mimic the framework illustrated above in coordination with the proposed CG1 regulations.  

In the following diagrams, the green areas depict enabled areas for low risk BVLOS as specified in CG1 with <5 people per km2. This is where AIRmarket aims to commercially focus on the enablement of “RPAS inspection” use cases, where there is a need to fly beyond 4 nm’s. The yellow areas depict low risk BVLOS with elevated requirements and represent population density >5 to <25 people per km2. The light red (pink) areas define controlled airspace and area’s with population density >25 people per km2 that are not enabled under the new regulations. The following map illustrations provide an insight into the Canadian airspace picture and how RTM services would serve to unlock Canadian airspace.

The pink circular areas (5 nm’s) define registered and certified airport environments, and represent a significant impediment to BVLOS operations. RTM airspace and the underlying services are the strategic framework proposed to gain access to these airspaces. As this and subsequent maps illustrate, the restricted airport environments correlate with higher population density and result in significant impedance to commercially viable BVLOS flight ops. 

The light red (pink) shaded areas are also Census Divisions (as defined by the Government of Canada) with a population density >25 people per km2 and are currently excluded from low-risk BVLOS flight ops. Looking at the greater Edmonton area, these areas cover a large majority of the Edmonton airspace. The industrial regions on east side of Edmonton, including the Alberta Industrial Heartland region near Fort Saskatchewan, have an interest in unlocking these regions on the shoulder of high population densities. More advanced use cases such as drone delivery & first responders will generate the demand for accessing airspace and need for RTM services. The demand for accessing more airspace will accelerate RTM service development towards higher population densities, with validation testing happening in lower risk / density areas.

The map below enables the reader to identify a virtual corridor between the Edmonton and Fort McMurray area, and arrive at the determination that airport environments are the essential blocker for long range BVLOS flight ops in northern Alberta. Once RPAS operations are moved out of higher population centers, the primary risk is airport environments (5 nm’s) as depicted by the light pink circles. As shown, there is an abundance of green space where AIRmarket aims to focus RPAS inspection use cases. These less populous areas represent the areas where AIRmarket aims to enable BVLOS flight ops beyond 4 nm’s with recognized RTM services incorporating reference architecture: C2, DAA, Surveillance, and Digital Conspicuity.

The map below represents the Fort McMurray (Alberta Oil Sands) airspace. The Alberta Oil Sands industry is an economic engine for Canada and has collective objectives to achieve net zero emission as per Pathways Alliance.  The long-term integrated use of BVLOS RPAS in the low-risk airspace empowers & accelerates the carbon reduction objectives in direct alignment with industry need for RPAS inspection use cases. The low population density, combined with the airport environments being driven / operated by the Oil Sands companies, helps to align this region towards a perfect test bed for RTM services incorporating reference architecture: C2, DDA, Surveillance and Digital Conspicuity.

The map below represents the “401 corridor” in eastern Canada (Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal) and depicts the complexity that population density creates for BVLOS. The combination of airport environments with the increased ground risks associated with population density (>25 people/km2) helps to illustrate the value of flight ops in rural Alberta. Establishing RTM services will provide the foundation for accessing higher risk regions as illustrated below.

In the future, the red shaded regions will be enabled by RTM services and the associated reference architectures. Like the parliament buildings in Ottawa, the RTM airspace is under construction to provide a foundation for BVLOS flights and Canada’s future with autonomous systems. 

AIRmarket’s SKYLINK UTM is powered by ASTRA UTM and deployed in strategic partnership with TELUS Communications.

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