Japan scaling up UAM trials

It seems Japan is now upping the stakes as it bids to find ways to safely integrate drone technology in its airspaces.

The country has roped in an unmanned traffic management partner for its project that currently pits a number of drone stakeholders from within and outside Japan, which will see the mapping out of a drone traffic management system for multiple drone operators to fly in the same space without problems.

Led by the National Institute of New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO), the latest project is called Drones and Robots for Ecologically Sustainable Societies (DRESS) and has organisations that include American integrated airspace management solution provider ANRA Technologies, BIRD INITIATIVE, NEC Corporation, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and other partners contributing.

Running for five years now since 2017, the DRESS project seeks to promote the development of drone and robotics systems that can be used in the fields of logistics, infrastructure inspection, and disaster response, as well as the construction of systems and flight tests for social implementation.

Demonstrations will be done in the city of Wakkanai and will include drone-based logistics, infrastructure inspection and disaster response.

As the partner tasked with providing the drones for the project, ANA, in cooperation with Municipal Wakkanai Hospital and Ein Pharmacy, will be experimenting with prescription drug delivery using a drone to remote disconnected areas.

The new kid on the block, ANRA Technologies, meanwhile, will be responsible for the traffic management system that will bring all of this together. The company will offer the SmartSkies family of UAS Traffic Management (UTM) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operations to the DRESS project; which solutions “offer intelligent and modular traffic management software capabilities”.

“For organisations that need an enterprise-class drone operations solution, we offer SmartSkies Mission Manager and for delivery solutions, we offer SmartSkies Delivery,” ANRA said in a statement. “The platforms have been rigorously tested and vetted by the world’s foremost government aviation authorities and are operational today in multiple locations worldwide.

“For the DRESS project, ANRA’s SmartSkies™ CTR UTM platform is connected to a central Flight Information Management System (FIMS) and exercises both federated and centralised UTM architectures. Additionally, the project is leveraging the SmartSkies™ Delivery platform connected to the drones, providing an entire ecosystem for ensuring the drones will safely and efficiently deliver medicine and other vital supplies. 

“ANRA’s delivery software provides a network that enables seamless drone deliveries by managing orders, inventory, and provisioning products – then safely operates the drone within our UTM network. It incorporates its airspace management technology to enable safe flight routing for the drone while providing tracking and status updates to the customer on our mobile app. ANRA’s solution connects all the necessary stakeholders by providing vital information and data exchanges for compliant and efficient delivery operations.

“The complete solution is hosted and deployed in secure cloud infrastructure based in Tokyo.”  

Over the past few years, NEDO has been conducting research and development on integrated traffic management to create a blueprint for a nationwide traffic management system and the latest project will develop various functions and systems to ensure that the National Airspace System safely integrates uncrewed aircraft.

“The participation of drone operators such as ANA in this test will demonstrate the need and importance of a drone traffic management system and the effectiveness of relevant security measures put in place for this deployment,” ANRA said.

“The ANRA team is excited to be a part of this project and is looking forward to sharing the results and key findings with all relevant stakeholders over the next few months.”


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