Do you anticipate having to limit how many sUAS can be in the air at any one time, given the complexity of urban air operations?
This is where I am really excited about where we are in our research and development. We have been designing a traffic network for Singapore, that looks at both safety as well as efficiency and network capacity. For instance, we have been designing a network that uses the federated topology espoused in the ASTM RID and InterUSS standards, but then can schedule traffic in the tens of thousand movements per hour across Singapore. Our system assumes 4D volumes operations rather than trajectory-based operations, and looks at a variety of metrics to measure efficiency.
We have also done some extrapolations of our own for Total Systems Error that will underpin our Strategic Deconfliction, based on the CNS work we did earlier in the Project. We have simultaneously fused this airspace capacity optimisation with some delivery network design considerations which I will elaborate on later.
Cybersecurity of UAVs and the entire UTM ecosystem remains a concern worldwide. How are you seeing that addressed?
While I acknowledge the importance of cyber, and keep track of the excellent work being led by Andy Thurling within JARUS, this is one thing we haven”T gone far down the path on in our own work. In saying that, I was one of the principal investigators with the Singapore National Research Foundation and Advanced Digital Sciences Center (ADS-C) which looked at cyber considerations for UAV operations, so I have a reasonable appreciation of how you can take a risk-based approach to identifying where you get the most bang for your buck. The low hanging fruit here is authentication and encryption, which is already embedded in the ASTM standards. I also think you will see it pervade UAV Control and Non-Payload Communications (CNPC) links soon enough. Other key things to consider, beyond the vulnerable aspects of the onboard systems (comms links, sensors, guidance and Flight Termination systems) and all of their failure modes include the supply chains for both hardware and software and as well as considerations for denial of service (DoS), spoofing and hacking. All of this is on our roadmap for further exploration.
The Singaporean regulatory authority hasn”T explicitly regulated on this front, but as I am part of SUSI in Switzerland, it has become apparent that GDPR is increasingly important. Complying with international expectations for data security is something we are compelled to deal with, not just from an information technology (IT) security perspective, but also in terms of people’s training, how you look at third-party providers, and of course how you deal with the data. The ASTM standard does a pretty good job requiring individual companies to secure data. The grey area may be how the RID Service Providers and Display Providers handle their customers? personal and financial credentials, specifically how that’s partitioned off from the transactions taking place under compliant RID.
What infrastructure is needed to make UTM for sUAS a reality? What are you using in Singapore?
We have taken a more holistic view, realising that the name of the game is to deliver at scale to reap an adequate Return on Investment (RoI). Aside from keeping everyone safely apart and coordinating their movements via an appropriate USS, supply chain design is an important consideration and this can”T ignore the aircraft and obstacle separation requirements in a metropolitan area. But from a purely supply chain perspective, you have to consider the location of the supply hubs and the number of consumer delivery points, and the obvious things like batteries and charging facilities, and how much downtime you allow for each UAV, which flows through to turnaround times, and fleet size requirements and then storage.
In a perfect world, you would place your supply hubs in locations which minimise the transit time for your UAV fleet, and match the number of platforms you maintain with the location and demands of your current and future consumer base. For the latter, Singapore offers tremendous upside: the majority of people live in high rise buildings, allowing you to deliver to many more consumers at the one location, which won”T be the case in the “Burbs of Canberra, Australia or Virginia in the US. So we looked at delivering to every roof-top (and the infrastructure that might entail), but also the option of reducing the number of delivery points, whilst looking to minimise the distances that people would need to walk to pick up their mail or their burrito via judicious placement. For example, by superimposing a 300m walk on consumers, the fleet transit distance could be reduced nearly 40 percent, which had flow on effects for the size and range of UAVs which could be deployed, flight approvals, strategic deconfliction, throughput and ultimately profitability.
In regards to supply hubs, we assessed the population distribution to identify ideal supply hub locations (given UAV endurance, flight times etc), but recognised that in the transition stages, early adopters may want to explore feasibility without a significant outlay on infrastructure. So we looked at several use cases, one of which is SingPost, and examined their existing postal office locations, and designed networks around using the rooftops as supply hubs. And we put a lot of effort into examining metrics for supply chain goodness, which when fused with our effort to make our ASTM compliant USS and fleet management capabilities. The outcomes are quite exciting and leaves me confident we can leverage our capabilities into new business areas very soon.
How are you addressing the noise problem? Does Singapore have regs on this?
As part of our route design we have the ability to reroute around locations where noise abatement policies dictate avoidance. Should that conflict with the need to deliver in such a location, we would embed a no-fly zone in our design.
The U.S. is trying hard to have “Campaigns? for sUAS to garner public acceptance. How is the public accepting sUAS in Singapore?
Singaporeans accept that they need to continue to be a technology country to keep ahead of their regional competitors and to maintain the enviable standard of living they enjoy. This means they are completely onboard with the phenomenon of disruption, the need to have a high class education system (*Fun Fact – Singapore has two universities in the top 50 internationally, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020) and that their government invests heavily in innovation. Our involvement as one of 4 successful consortiums with the Ministry of Transport is one example of this governmental investment. Government sponsorship of the Volocopter trials last year is another example. The success of these campaigns increases public awareness and acceptance of advanced technology.
Do you have any parting thoughts on UTM for our readership?
UTM is a critical enabler for lift and shift: of people (UAM) and product (UAV). It is my belief that in terms of the Gartner Hype Cycle, some tough technical questions need to be solved if we are to progress to the ‘slope of enlightenment,” realize the potential of UTM and UAM, and not just burn a whole heap of VC money. I look forward to speaking at InterDrone in Dallas, highlighting some of those “Unspoken? challenges, and talking through our efforts to solve them.
*The views and opinions in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those the DOD, do not constitute an endorsement of any organization mentioned herein and are not intended to influence the action of federal agencies or their employees.
Dawn M.K. Zoldi (Colonel, USAF, Retired) is a licensed attorney and a 25-year Air Force veteran. She is an internationally recognized expert on unmanned aircraft system law and policy, a recipient of the Woman to Watch in UAS (Leadership) Award 2019, and the CEO of P3 Tech Consulting LLC.