Monitoring air traffic as a drone pilot isn’t easy, but it is essential as to avoid incidents between drones and manned aircrafts - a popular topic, nowadays. The Swiss-based startup OneSky is working on a solution to fix this.

OneSky develops and produces air traffic awareness systems to “safely and efficiently open the sky to all flying objects, ​as a universal and connected medium for businesses”.

Since a drone's autopilot reacts to danger faster than a human, OneSky thinks the drone should process and solve the collision between a drone and any aircraft. However, since the sensors needed to correctly read the environment are too heavy for most drones to carry, the company’s philosophy is “to scale-down and adapt the concept of control tower to the use case of drones”. The result is Alpha One, a Micro Control Tower (MCT) for local traffic awareness that allows drone pilots to detect the surrounding air traffic while operating a drone.

Depending on the version you choose, Alpha One comes with different integrated sensors for air traffic awareness: ADS-B, Transponder, and FLARM. These sensors collect information - Aircraft ID, direction, distance, altitude, GPS position, heading and speed - and communicate to the drone’s ground station interface. This allows the drone to apply automated, low risk and timely avoidance strategies. In the future, OneSky’s “goal is to integrate as many sensors as possible in order to see any object flying in the sky (from the parachutist to birds and all the way to the weather)”.

Alpha One has a range of up to 10Km, a battery with one working day autonomy, and performs even at low-altitude. It also features a stand-alone software user interface; integrates on existing drone platforms; and more importantly, automatically avoids collisions. This video shows how the system works.

In collaboration with swiss aeropole, OneSky will test its system in Payerne, Vaud. The project consists of the installation of several Alpha One systems on the sites made available by swiss aeropole, to gather air traffic data and test the system’s efficiency.

“In the context where drone related incidents are exponentially increasing, there is an urgency to make available a comprehensive solution ensuring safer drone missions," said OneSky founder and CEO, Manu Lubrano, “OneSky has developed a solution answering the needs of professional drone operators in terms of flight safety. Starting to test it in collaboration with such an important aeronautical player like swiss aeropole and benefiting from the facilities of Payerne civil airport is an important step for the validation of our approach and will enable us starting the commercialisation really fast.”

More awareness for drone pilots in the sky is something we've talked about in the context of a UTM, and it's exciting to see where and how this kind of understanding will be created for the pilots of manned and unmanned pilots.