Deutsche Telekom, Germany’s largest telecom company, and the German air traffic control (DFS) announced on Wednesday to enter a joint venture in order to develop a system that will enable drones to fly beyond the visual range of the operating drone pilot.
“Our technology finally makes it possible to fully exploit the potential offered by drones operated in a professional setting,” said Tim Hoettges, chief executive officer (CEO) of Deutsche Telekom.
The newly-found company Droniq will develop a traffic management system for drones that will display the position data of drones together with the tracking data of manned aircrafts. This would make it possible to create a “complete air situation display”.
“Droniq offers an entry into the commercial operation of unmanned aircraft systems, especially for drone flights beyond the visual line of sight,” said Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, CEO of DFS.
The traffic management system that Droniq is seeking to develop would aim to “integrate drones safely and fairly into airspace”, added Scheurle.
According to German law, drones weighing under 5 kilograms must not be operated without visual contact by the pilot. For heavier drones, flights outside the pilot’s range of vision are currently only possible with a special permit.
The traffic management system by Droniq could also be used to register drones, plan specific “missions” of drones as well as to automatically obtain permissions for take-off and landing, according to Deutsche Telekom and DFS.
In order to use the traffic system, drones needed to be equipped with a “special modem with an integrated SIM card”. Using this modem, drones would transmit position data and identification to the traffic management system via mobile communications networks.
Besides transmitting “basic data” such as position, drones can also utilize the new traffic management system to transmit images and measurement data via the modem.
“Drones are an important technology of the future with great potential for the entire industrial location,” Ivo Rzegotta, drone expert of the German Unmanned Aviation Association (VUL), told Xinhua on Wednesday.
In order for this potential to be exploited, legal regulations such as a “registration obligation for drones and their users as well as technical solutions for the identification of drones in airspace” would be required, said Rzegotta.
The German drone market is expected to grow fivefold from currently 574 million euros (640.2 million U.S. dollars) to around 3 billion euros by 2030, VUL announced in February.
In Germany, nearly half a million drones are in operation, of which 455,000 are used privately and 19,000 are used commercially. While the growth in private use of drones would be slowing down, the number of commercially used drones would be increasing to 126,000 by 2030, VUL stated.
Droniq is planning to apply its traffic management system primarily to commercial applications such as “infrastructure, surveying or agriculture” but the system can also be used by firefighters, police and “users from the general aviation environment”.
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