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Staff spotlight: Casey Smeekes

Meet Casey Smeekes – AirShare Product Specialist, based at Airways International’s offices in Christchurch, New Zealand. In this Q&A with Casey, he shares a little about his role, and about the AirShare UTM system and its contribution to the safe integration of drones into the airspace system.

What is your role as AirShare Product Specialist?

My role involves working with customers to understand their requirements and successfully implement the AirShare UTM system. Further to this, it involves being a subject matter expert for the UTM/UA space for Airways International.

Where do you see the UTM industry heading?

The growth of the UTM industry is expected to continue at pace in the coming years. As the use of UA increases across various sectors, there will be a greater need for effective UTM systems to ensure safe and efficient integration into all airspace. The industry will likely see advancements in technology, regulations, and collaboration among stakeholders to enable the safe operation of UA at scale.

What do you think are the biggest challenges in the UTM industry?

Establishing robust regulatory frameworks that strike a balance between safety and operational flexibility is a challenge. As the industry develops at a rapid rate, and UAM/AAM technology continues to advance, regulatory authorities will need to keep up with the pace of change.

Coordinating multiple UTM systems and integrating them with existing air traffic management (ATM) systems is complex. Ensuring interoperability and seamless communication between UTM providers, drone operators and traditional aviation stakeholders is crucial.

How does UTM contribute to the safe integration of drones into the national airspace system?

UTM plays a vital role in the safe integration of drones into the national airspace system by providing a framework for managing and monitoring drone operations. Globally UTM is increasingly being talked about as an ecosystem of interconnected, distributed systems that supports UAS integration into the airspace. Within the UTM ecosystem, stakeholders can connect and share the information necessary to effectively perform their role within the UTM.  

A UTM ecosystem that is designed to scale and readily integrate with new data sources and services will support greater innovation of the UAS industry. Airways International has built a UTM solution that enables this ecosystem vision with a set of APIs that can integrate with USSPs, registration systems, drone detection systems, airspace data etc. 

Can you explain the key components that make up AirShare?

AirShare has been operational in controlled airspace since 2014, and, to compare to the U-Space concept, it serves as both the Centralised Information System (CIS) and USSP. Its architecture is designed to be future-proofed through APIs, ensuring readiness for the emergence of additional USSPs.

AirShare offers a range of services such as Flight Authorisation and Geo-Awareness. It also integrates various systems to provide Remote ID services, and can seamlessly connect with drone detection infrastructure and ATM traffic feeds to deliver traffic information services. Another important function of AirShare is its capability to integrate with ATM systems, including both electronic flight  and traditional paper-based strips.