Altitude Angel, a leading UTM (Unified Traffic Management) provider, has announced the commencement of its deployments for what is set to be the largest commercial, aviation-grade sensor network optimized for wide-area low-altitude drone and aircraft detection in the UK.
The network incorporates purpose-built ADS-B and Mode S receivers, along with comprehensive SDR (Software Defined Radio) capabilities. Additionally, the network can detect both existing and future 'Remote ID' broadcasts from transmitters on drones and collect transmission information from common control systems used to pilot them. This enables the sensor network to identify drones that are electronically broadcasting their location, as well as those that are not. Moreover, Altitude Angel's detection technologies allow low-flying crewed aviation to be detected and located using passive sensors, even when no signal is being broadcast.
The data received by the sensor network is integrated with Altitude Angel's existing air-surveillance information, creating a high-resolution, near real-time digital map of low-altitude airspace.
The ability to detect aircraft and drones at lower altitudes is becoming increasingly crucial, but it remains challenging to achieve effectively. Current systems offer limited coverage and a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, leading to potential missed low-altitude aviation broadcasts. Altitude Angel's new network aims to address these limitations by offering low-latency capabilities, which are vital for navigation.
The network has undergone extensive testing across four sites and is now being expanded to an additional 30 sites across the Midlands and Southeast of England. Altitude Angel also plans to enable authorities to extend coverage where needed, providing access to the overall surveillance picture.
Richard Parker, Altitude Angel CEO and founder, emphasized the significance of the network: "In building this network, we're building the most comprehensive, real-time picture of whatever is moving through the country's low-altitude airspace. Coupled with our ARROW technology, the sensor network is a key component in the enablement of the digitization of low-altitude airspace, leading toward greater visibility of air traffic and enabling automated BVLOS drone operations anywhere in the UK at scale, while providing operators of uncrewed aircraft the security they need to operate safely in unsegregated airspace."
Unlike plane tracking software designed for higher altitudes, the Altitude Angel network has been specifically tailored for new and future airspace users, such as drones and UAM operators, who mainly operate in lower airspace. Lower altitudes present challenges for broadcast signal reception, as existing systems were originally designed for higher-altitude use. Altitude Angel's network, optimized for the UK's topography, guarantees better reception.
Moreover, the network is deployed using certified, robust, and resilient aviation-grade hardware, ensuring reliable performance. ADS-B and Mode S receivers, commonly used by general aviation and other air users, are utilized to broadcast aircraft location and are occasionally carried by drones.
As the drone industry continues to grow, the Altitude Angel sensor network is positioned to play a critical role in enabling safe and efficient operations across the UK's low-altitude airspace.