How RFM and UTM can collaborate for smooth Drone Traffic Operations?

UTM stands for “UAS Traffic Management”. It is a specialized ecosystem for management of air traffic for UAVs in combination with Air Traffic Management system. While RFM stands for Registered Flight Module Provider as per DGCA Guidance Manual section #1.3-page number 34.

Both the entities have clear-cut roles to play and cannot be combined together. The purpose of UTM is to manage entire air traffic for UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) and the purpose of RFM is to manage the actual flights (Mission Planning and Controlling Flights) in BVLOS operations. Like in case of manned air crafts ATM (Air Traffic Management) system manages the air traffic congestion to prevent any accident but does not actually control any aircraft flying. Similarly, on ground road signals actually manage traffic to avoid any accident but doesn’t actually control the driving of vehicle.

In nutshell, UTM is to manage the traffic and RFM is to manage the flights flying.

Here is a high-level architecture of both ecosystems.


The above diagram clearly indicates the role of both of these systems. RFM provider should be directly RPA/UAV controlling entity while UTM should be traffic management entity.

Functions which an RFM provider can cater:
    1. Automated Registration of each RPA unit with digital sky platform.
    2. Digital Certificate Management and key rotation policy management
    3. Identity Management of each RPA
    4. Authentication System Management when connecting to each RPA
    5. Operational Envelop Management of RPA
    6. Owner Identity Management, Users identity Management
    7. Inventory Management for Serial Numbers and UUID
    8. Project Management of each Flight
    9. Plans Management
    10. Pilot Identity Management which is required for PA.
    11. Mission Planning for each type of application which requires direct controlling of different hardware of RAP/UAV.
      • Way point Mission Plans
      • Survey Grid Mission Plans
      • Agriculture Spray Mission Plans
      • Package Delivery Mission Plans and so on…
    12. Log Management of each RPA
    13. Application Management like Live Streaming, Real Time Analytics Management and so on which are actual need of end customers
    14. Live tracking of RPA which is require for end customer
    15. Billing Management for end customers and so on…
Functions which an UTM provider can cater:
    1. Permission Management for Permission Artefact in association with Digital Sky Platform
    2. Data exchange with ATM infrastructure to get real time updates of traffic in air
    3. Data exchange with other UTM providers so that more air information can be analysed and air traffic decisions can be taken.
    4. Communication with Digital Sky platform for multiple functions including RPA identity verification.
    5. De-conflict management to avoid any accident in air.

From above roles of each entity, both cannot be combined together. UTM is most critical entity as it must ensure that no accident happens in air. Therefore, it must remain as a dedicated unit for traffic management. If it is combined with RFM roles, then it will be a heavily loaded system and the possibility of crashing of the system will be higher. RFM will handle lesser number of RPA directly; however if it’s role is removed then all RPA operation, controlling role will go to UTM and in that case, if UTM fails, it will create havoc in air.