We recently had a conversation with Claudia Bacco from Air Traffic Management magazine during Amsterdam Drone Week 2023, to discuss the latest developments in the UTM/ATM, AAM and telecommunication sectors. The topic has gained momentum in the aviation industry due to the implementation of new U-space regulations in January 2023.
When asked for her opinion on the current state of the field, Claudia highlighted the contrasting mentalities between the UTM and ATM players. The older ATM industry prioritises safety and gradual implementation over rapid innovation, creating a divide with the UTM sector. However, the introduction of the U-space regulations has helped establish a middle ground.
Over time, those in the UTM sector have come to understand that progress cannot always be as fast as they’d like it to be and have learned to respect the approach and infrastructure of the existing ATM industry. At the same time, those in the ATM industry are increasingly embracing UTM infrastructure and the innovative mindset it brings to aviation. This has led to more progress in the UTM industry, which is picking up speed while still maintaining a strong emphasis on safety.
When discussing the role of Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) in the development of UTM, Claudia explained that their involvement varies by country. In some places, drone operators are advocating strongly for BVLOS operations to maximize their potential, while progress in other countries is much slower.
Despite the varied pace, many ANSPs are interested in entering the drone industry, as the UTM space is gaining significant attention. However, Claudia and Eszter Kovács noted that a key challenge for many solutions is their struggle to differentiate themselves or effectively promote their brand.
Several organisations are all promoting their solutions, which offer similar core features, such as deconfliction. This, while important, continues to limit their ability to differentiate themselves from each other. Some ANSPs, like ENAV, have created their own UTM systems, such as D-Flight, but advancements in this area may take longer than anticipated. Claudia suggested that these smaller UTM players should also work on integrating with cloud services, which the industry has long been advocating for while being cautious of public cloud solutions due to cybersecurity concerns.
Claudia shared her insights into Urban Air Mobility (UAM) developments across different regions, mentioning her recent attendance at MWC Barcelona 2023. The conference featured various telecommunications companies entering the drone industry, but she was, unfortunately, disappointed to find that discussions focused on the lack of progress and public adoption in the advanced air mobility (AAM) sector, rather than its future.
These conversations led Claudia to believe that the business model for urban air mobility (UAM) is not yet fully developed and remains a niche market. However, some organisations are pushing for air taxis at the Paris Olympics, potentially utilising pre-existing helicopter routes and vertiports. This effort is valuable for encouraging the public to consider future possibilities of AAM applications.
A highlight of MWC Barcelona for Claudia was the SK Telecom stand, which offered participants a chance to experience a virtual air taxi flight. Although she couldn't participate due to long lines, the concept aimed to familiarize the public with these innovative transportation methods.
Claudia shared that telecommunications companies are increasingly interested in the drone industry as they seek new methods to capitalise on their existing 5G networks. This interest has triggered a secondary effect, driving these companies to explore the market beyond merely providing connectivity.
She also mentioned that the South Korean government has recently required telecommunications companies to develop UTM networks. This development will result in more participants in the field, in addition to ANSPs. At this event, a telecom panel speaker also offered an analogy that resonated with Claudia. They compared drone and UTM development to the evolution of smartphones. Initially, smartphones were primarily used for making calls, with people spending modest amounts on SIM cards. Nowadays, phone calls are often the least-used function of smartphones. If the drone and telecommunications industries adopt a similar mindset, they can scale the market as smartphones have.
A similar approach can be applied to AAM, where organizations initially provide point-to-point transportation for individuals. This concept can be adapted for specific business cases, such as cargo drones, by both people and organizations.
Air Traffic Management is an online magazine dedicated to providing comprehensive coverage of the latest developments, trends, and innovations in the air traffic management (ATM) and communications, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) industries. As a market-leading publication, it serves as a resource for professionals, decision-makers and stakeholders involved in these sectors.
The online magazine features news articles, in-depth analysis, expert opinions and industry insights that keep readers informed about the rapidly evolving landscape of air traffic management. Topics covered include technologies, regulations, policies, best practices, and case studies related to air traffic control, airspace management, airport operations, and more.
Claudia Bacco is an experienced marketing and business professional with a background in various industries, such as telecommunications, IT networking, critical infrastructure, security, IoT, autonomous vehicles, UAVs/drones, transportation communications, air traffic management and aeronautical information management. Since March 2019, she has been the founder and principal of Grand Prix Marketing Consultants, offering services in brand strategy, content marketing, digital marketing and sales enablement.
Additionally, Claudia holds the position of Chief Marketing Officer at ComeTogether, a company focused on NFT ticketing, collectables, and memberships. She also serves as an Assistant Editor for Air Traffic Management, a publication covering multiple aspects of the ATM and Communications, Navigation and Surveillance industry.
At Verhaert Innovation Academy, Claudia has been a strategic mentor since 2013, coaching entrepreneurial talent in organizations to validate and launch new ideas. She has occupied various leadership roles in marketing and product management at companies like Frequentis, RCR Wireless News, AGT International, Nokia Siemens Networks, Vanu Inc., and Juniper Networks. Furthermore, Claudia was President of Telechoice Inc for five years, showcasing her ability to lead in a small and dynamic environment while delivering on project objectives.
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