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Strategic Deconfliction Performance: Results and Analysis from the NASA UTM Technical Capability Level 4 Demonstration  (2020)
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Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) refers to the service-based, cooperative approach to the management of small UAS in the National Airspace System that is safe, scalable, and fair. UTM provides the means to manage the airspace in a complementary manner that does not burden the current air traffic control workforce or infrastructure but allows the Air Navigation Service Provider to maintain its regulatory and operational authority of the airspace.

A key feature of UTM is the ability to provide operators the means to strategically deconflict operations from others in the airspace through the digital exchange of information via supporting services. Through this approach, the four-dimensional operation volumes that encompass the intent of operators in a given area are discoverable and can be used for airspace awareness as well as planning conflict free operations that account for and avoid other operations. In certain cases, it is also possible to negotiate volume intersections for shared airspace use without the need to re-plan.

In the NASA UTM concept, strategic deconfliction is the first layer of three in the overall conflict management model. The three layers of the conflict management model, which follow the International Civil Aviation Organization’s scheme [ICAO 2005] are: strategic conflict management, separate provision, and collision avoidance. In UTM, the strategic layer mostly occurs prior to departure, but is applicable to en route operations with sufficient planning horizon. The initial requirements for a strategic deconfliction capability within UTM are defined in a NASA publication [Rios 2018].

Within the concept and implementation of service-provided strategic deconfliction is the notion of priority. It is understood that there are instances in which an operation requires a priority designation within the UTM system and special handling accordingly to provide situation awareness and facilitate appropriate responses from other airspace users. Examples of situations requiring priority designation include: when an operator declares an emergency due to problems with the vehicle or its immediate surroundings; operations that are in support of certain organizations (e.g., public safety and first responders); or special missions that also require priority use of airspace (e.g., emergency medical deliveries).

UAS Volume Reservations (UVRs) also relate to the topic of priority in the sense that the airspace that the volume encompasses has a different status or classification in which unassociated operations must vacate if inside, or avoid if outside, through strategic deconfliction with the volume. Operations that are specially permitted to access the UVR area are typically assigned priority status given the nature of their mission and their associated credentials.

The ability to perform strategic deconfliction, handle certain operations with a priority distinction, and establish UVRs that are communicated throughout the UTM system, is predicated on an architecture that has been established through an evolutionary process in response to close collaboration with stakeholders from government and industry. Another important and influential aspect of these capabilities and architecture is the live, distributed flight tests that have been conducted across the Technical Capability Levels (TCLs) that culminated with a set of complex tests performed as part of TCL4 [Rios 2020]. The TCL4 flight test involved two FAA-designated UAS test sites building teams to collaborate with NASA's UTM Project on the execution of several detailed, small UAS scenarios in urban environments.
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Aircraft, deconfliction, management, strategic, System, traffic, UAS, Unmanned, UTM
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Curator: Phil So
NASA Official: Joey Mercer
Last Updated: August 15, 2019