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Drone partnership announcement broadcast March 5 2018

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Hi I'm Jevon from the NATS communications team and we're coming to you from the Altitude angel offices in Reading where we're going to be talking about the partnership that's been announced between NATS and Altitude Angel and what it means for the drone industry. I’m joined by Richard Parker, CEO and founder of Altitude Angel and also by Andy Sage, head of drones at NATS. So Andy if I can start with you and just ask what impact of drones already had on NATS and how do you see the industry developing given how busy the skies already are. The impact has been growing pretty steadily throughout the last two years now, 2017 saw the number of safety reports as drone related reported to NATS hitting the 50% mark for the first time At the same time our airport customers are seeing more and more drone sightings that's beginning to impact on their operations but on a more positive side we've seen a massive increase in number of commercial drone operators in the UK and that has certainly been reflected in the number of daily requests for access into our airspace that we've been seeing. So why have we entered this partnership with Altitude Angel? Well quite simply it's about responding to that safety need, NATS has always sought to be proactive, we have an obligation to try and maintain the safety of our existing customers and existing users, and fundamentally we need to be able to respond to that need. At the same time we recognise that in order to provide solutions to resolve this problem we will benefit from the capabilities and expertise that doesn’t exist within NATS today and this partnership is an attempt to try and bring those two worlds together, and in doing so we hope that we will make the UK one of the best places in the world for drone operators to do business and making a welcome place for people to build those cases to operate. Richard what are your reasons for entering into the partnership and what do you hope to achieve from it? So I think I would echo Andy’s comments there, Altitude Angel has always been focussed on the technology behind making drone flights safer and I think we share a common interest in keeping people safe and we want to enable as many people as possible, to be able to fly as many drones as possible, as safely as possible. So to actually be able to mirror that with an ANSP who are forward thinking, innovative and really concerned with encouraging as many people to use drones safely, I think we are in a great place together. How critical do you think the role of the ANSP is in enabling the growth of the professional drone market particularly? So I think today the ANSP is in a fantastic position to really catalyse access to the airspace and certainly Altitude Angel one of the biggest requests we get is how do we enable our community of users to access the airspace more easily, particularly for commercial operations. Over time as the number of these increase it's going to become increasingly a burden on the ANSP to process those and again from a safety perspective is important to understand how you can reduce the workload and a caseload on the existing ATM System today. with technology built for the UTM world, the unmanned traffic management world, that’s what we are really trying to achieve together. And Andy, why Altitude Angel? Why have we chosen to partner with Altitude Angel on this work? I think it goes back about 18 months when we first decided to create our own safety app, the drone assist app as it’s now known which I think we're now up to 50 thousand registered users and becoming the defacto platform for the UK. At the time we were really eager to improve safety as quickly as we could, improving the Education awareness amongst what was a massively growing population of users and so NATS being NATS, safety had to be at the core of everything we did and we saw in what Altitude Angel had built was delivering a far greater level of data integrity and attention to detail, that we saw from anybody else really. Now over the last 18 months as we work more closely with the team that appreciation is extended to the people in Richard's team, they seem to have the same passion around safety that you find intrinsic within NATS and that means a great deal to us and now looking ahead I think the core capabilities they have in managing data safely and allowing that to be scalable up to vast numbers of users, we see as absolutely what we require. Obviously there’s a positive rationale for the case for developing the professional drone industry in the UK and the safety case around but what about existing airspace users and airports, how would this partnership benefit them? We hope extremely positively, from an airline perspective, we all saw the disruption that was caused at Gatwick last summer and the number flights that were disrupted or even diverted from nearby activity near the airport. Now without a situational picture, without information to go on who is out there using the Drones are for what purpose then we will see that continuing and the same applied to our airport customers as well. Where as from a drone operator perspective then we really hope that this Foundation infrastructure that we are building is going to allow a thriving downstream market for those operators to come along as I said earlier and build operational cases and safety cases that will provide really valuable services in the UK So we are hoping that it will benefit everybody. A question for you both, but I will start with you Richard if I can, how do you think this partnership will help the UK to be at the forefront of the growing drone industry? I think the UK has always been a fantastic position to show innovation and be able to demonstrate that the UK is open for drone business and I think really this partnership is about taking that now to the next level and what we are very excited about at Altitude Angel is the ability to now start blending together what was previously a very separate sillowed thing, the UTM world, the drone and the emerging traffic management around the drone and the ATM world and it existing air traffic management industry and what we fundamentally initially to solve is the communication problem. The different mechanisms of communication, different speeds that, that communication needs to happen at As Andy said, it comes down to, can you do this safely and can you do this reliably and this is some of the core things what we really focus on here at Altitude Angel and how we enable that routinely and safely in UK airspace, so I think if we can show this working here then that becomes a useful model that can be demonstrated around the world in other countries. That’s one of the questions I was going to ask is actually, do you think this is a partnership between translated to other countries as well or is it very UK specific? So I think there are obviously UK specific applications here, but certainly the basic principles of ANSP co-operating with UTM company and UTM company collaborating with an ANSP, this is the right kind of partnership and the right kind of step and it's a necessary step in the evolution of enabling more access to the airspace. I think what is really important to remember is certainly for a lot of folks is that we only have one Sky and we can't treat the traffic that's going through the skies as two separate things certainly not in a long term so I think what this partnership demonstrates is two like minded entities will be coming from very different angles approaching this problem in the in the right way building the right foundations now for a successful future. Anything you want to add to that Andy? Yeah I think from a broader industry perspective I kind of see us perhaps getting to the end of the beginning of this industry as it were. We have come out of a phase that has been focused upon rapid expansion of consumer users of drones and hobbyists. I now see us entering more of a what I call an enterprise phase in the industry where we need to focus more on the really valuable applications of drones and I don't think we, can do that in such a busy section of the sky as there is over the UK, unless we provide a safe and secure framework for that to happen. In terms of I guess particularly focused on the UK but maybe broad as well, what do you think we can expect to see in the next 12 to 18 months maybe in terms of the development of this industry and how it can grow whilst still ensuring that the safety of manned aviation? So I think you're going to see a obviously increasing number of drones being used for a manner of activities and along with that you going to see a rise in number of requests increased pressure and demands on ANSPS looking after controlled airspace so what you're going to see there is all the tension that normally goes with that relationship but in the UK at least we'll have digital tools deployed to enable that to happen in an increasingly automated fashion under the watchful guidance of and ANSP checked for quality, checked for assurance check for safety, but crucially enabling more people to get into that airspace to do those fantastic things with drones that we all know and see everyday. Because we hear increasing stories about how the emergency services are using them and how maybe construction companies and a whole myriad of companies,as well as those such as delivery companies that we hear a lot about want to do this kind of thing. So I guess is it about enabling those activities to take place safely alongside everything else? I think we will see more and more of those valuable services chomping at the bit to come about this year, and as I said these are really busy skies we’ve got over the UK and unless we are going to be looking at segregated bits of airspace and quite frankly the UK airspace is already pretty full and can't manage the skies in that way then then we have to find a clever way of dealing with it. One last question I had to you Andy particularly- we've heard about a lot of deals in this sector these kind of things, can you tell me what's different about this one? Yeah, just to be clear, this is not another R&D project, this is not another trial, this is not another prototypes, not another test of a technology, this is real. This is about us integrating the capability into our day-to-day operation, we have already actually taken the capability off of Altitude Angel integrated into our operations for the benefit of general aviation and very soon this year will also be using it in order to enable airspace applications on behalf of drone operators. So some of that software is already in the operations room, is that correct? Yeah, yep, we have already seen the value of it and that's already in place. now I know a lot of people talk about UTM meaning unmanned traffic management as Richard has already indicated we can't have one system working for one user someone for another, that’s going to end up in segregated airspace. For us its more about a unified traffic management and we need a common framework that will support a myriad of different airspace users whether they are manned or unmanned in the same section about space interacting with one another. Excellent, thank you both unless you've got anything else to add thank you for joining us and I hope you found that useful please visit their NATS and Altitude Angel websites and social media channels, if you want any more information thank you for watching.

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Duration: 11 minutes and 7 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Posted by: ciaramcb on Mar 13, 2018

In March 2018, NATS announced a strategic partnership with fast-growing UK-based drone traffic management solutions company Altitude Angel. Watch a live discussion between Andrew Sage, Head of Drones at NATS and Richard Parker, Founder and CEO of Altitude Angel, as they discuss what the partnership means for the drone industry and for the UK.

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