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Staff Spotlight: John McKenzie

Meet John McKenzie – Airways International’s Digital Solutions Sales Director, who supports our customers across the globe with their needs around Airways digital solutions such as TotalControl, AKO training and AirShare. In this Q&A with John, he shares his thoughts on some of the biggest challenges and innovations in the UTM industry.

Where do you see the UTM industry heading?

UTM is a must to manage the exponential growth expected in UA flights. It is on a ‘collision course’ with ATM – in terms of sooner or later there must be some sort of integration between the two – will there be a UTM and ATM ecosystem. Currently AirShare has integrated with both the traditional and modern electronic flight strip systems. AirShare is also operational throughout New Zealand, operating in 17 control towers.

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

I see the biggest challenge being who will pay, including the framework on how this will be achieved. Is this going to be a multi country approach or a single country approach? There are many more questions to be asked around this topic. Harmonisation within and across international boundaries is another challenge – more standards and specifications need to be developed. USSP/CIS certification is also a topic that needs exploring further.

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

The UTM sector needs to adopt digitalisation, and we’re starting to see some innovations surface in this area. There are some commendable instances of deconfliction, and noteworthy advancements in digital clearances, such as AirShare’s capability to request digital authorisation for initiating flights, thereby minimising the workload of airspace managers.

Looking at it purely from a technical standpoint, there have been some intriguing advancements in drone detection, and how that information can be incorporated into a UTM system. At AirShare, we’re prepared to integrate this data to provide airspace managers with insights into which detected targets are genuinely uncooperative, as opposed to those that have permission to operate.

Anything else you would like to add?

The evolution of UTM is happening at an unprecedented pace, and it’s becoming increasingly challenging to keep up. We are currently contending with the issue of drones vying for space in and around the ATM domain, while simultaneously dealing with the launch of AAM.

Against this backdrop, AirShare is steadfast in its resolve to enhance situational awareness, alleviate the workload of Air Traffic Control staff and airspace managers, and foster the growth of the UTM ecosystem. By embracing new technologies and leveraging data insights, AirShare aims to provide a more comprehensive picture of the airspace and facilitate the seamless integration of unmanned systems into the broader aviation landscape.