Research & Development

JAXA promotes three research and development programs and a fundamental research program that underpins them.

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM)


Background and objectives

Use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, is rapidly spreading in various fields like pesticide application, aerial photography, and surveying. As UAS continue to develop, the technology could find its ways into areas ranging from delivery and infrastructure inspection to disaster response and other new applications. There are great expectations that UAS may bring about industrial, economic, and social changes (Industrial Revolution in the Air).

Currently, Japan’s safety rule* on UAS basically mandates an operator (or an assistant) to visually monitor the situation in the immediate environment and ensure safety. To realize the Industrial Revolution in the Air and expand the application of UAS into logistics and other new fields, it must be possible to fly numerous UAS more flexibly, beyond visual line of sight. Developed of a UAS traffic management (UTM) system is required.

* In September 2018, the Japanese government revised the “Guidelines for Permission and Approval to Fly Unmanned Aircraft Systems” to clarify the requirements for flying UAS beyond visual line of sight without an assistant. However, certain conditions exist, such as that UAS can only be flown in restricted areas (where unauthorized parties are unlikely to enter) since the risk of collision with another UAS cannot be reduced. To enable the flight of numerous UAS in populated areas (over third parties) in the future, further efforts are required to ensure safety.

What is a UTM system?

A UAS traffic management (UTM) system is a new concept for traffic management/control that enables safe and efficient operation of numerous UAS flying in the same airspace. It aims to achieve this by collecting and using the flight information of all unmanned and (manned) aircraft operating in the target airspace, as well as weather, building, and other relevant information.

Project overview

Since FY2017, JAXA has been working with other research institutions and private companies to develop a UTM system as part of the “Drones and Robots for Ecologically Sustainable Societies (DRESS) Project,” funded and managed by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

This project assumes that traffic management service for UAS operators and information supplement service necessary for safe and efficient operation will be provided by multiple systems and business operators. These services are being developed by eight groups under the project, and JAXA is responsible for the overall design of the UTM system. With the help of other research institutions— the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), National Institute of Informatics (NII), and Electronic Navigation Research Institute (ENRI)—JAXA is working on the following tasks.

(1) UTM concept definition

We will develop a specific traffic management method (concept) that will meet various demands, including safe and efficient use of airspace, in an environment where numerous UAS are operated beyond visual line of sight.

(2) UTM system architecture design

We will design the architecture and common interface for a traffic management system that will realize the UTM concept.

(3) Development of UTM simulator, and evaluation and verification of UTM concept/system

We will develop a simulator that can simulate the flight of numerous UAS, and evaluate/verify the effectiveness of the traffic management concept and the system architectures.

Updated on April 17, 2019