I much prefer to look forward, but every once-in-a-while it can be nice to look back, to see how far you’ve travelled, remind yourself what you’ve achieved (and sometimes what you haven’t) and to help focus the mind on what lies ahead.
It would be remiss to look back at the year and not acknowledge that the world was just starting to emerge from “the Pandemic” and to not acknowledge the impact of the War on Ukraine. I was truly taken aback when our own people started opening their households to Ukrainian families in their times of need, just as they had supported each other during the first phases of the Pandemic. Great, great people. The subsequent energy markets crisis and the impact on the global economy has been profound, but we are fortunate to have a very strong business and such fantastic investment partners backing us: believing in our vision, and supportive of our progress.
Through 2022 – despite all of these challenges and more, we, as a company, have achieved so much, and I’d like to take a few moments to just acknowledge a few of those here.
Back in January we gathered in person for the first time in two years. Given what the world has endured this felt like a significant milestone. Through Covid the business grew so this was the first opportunity we’d had to meet many of our new colleagues face-to-face, which was amazing. Being in someone’s company, to share a drink or have a meal together, is something I will never take for granted again.
Across the team we’ve continued to push the boundaries and lead in developing the technologies which will enable the UAM and UAV industries to fulfill their potential.
With industry colleagues and partners, we launched Skyway, which through its ambition and scale has captured the public’s imagination. 165 miles of drone ‘superhighway’ connecting Reading with Coventry, Milton Keynes, Rugby, and Cambridge, was the stand-out project when the government made its Future Flight 3 announcement. Underpinned by our ARROW technology, our plans to scale this even further – in the UK and further abroad – are already underway.
One of the highlights of my year was our Automated Skies event. On a swelteringly hot day in July, Altitude Angel brought together airspace regulators, government representatives, aviation decision makers, and those working to enable the drone industry, to demonstrate the fundamental capabilities and importance of the ARROW technology in achieving an integrated sky, without the need for drones to carry specific hardware, or to operate in a temporary danger area. In other words, how using ARROW can unlock automated flight at scale. With flight partners including Skyfarer, Herotech8, Skybound Rescuer, Animal Dynamics, Texo Drone, and Thames Valley Police (all of whom we thank wholeheartedly for their efforts), over 140 flights took place in unsegregated airspace – which included issuing tactical deconfliction following incursions into the airspace of private and military aircraft, as well as ‘rogue drone’ flights across a variety of different commercial drone scenarios. With so many drone flights, from so many vendors and operators, we’re convinced Automated Skies was, and still is, the largest public demonstration of UTM at scale, anywhere in the world.
But what impressed me most about the day was not the drone flights, or the RAF Chinook fly over, but the way the Altitude Angel team performed. There was a ‘togetherness’ you rarely find in other companies, and I could not have been prouder. Delegates had an amazing time. Our team worked incredibly hard in preparation and on the day, and all our equipment worked flawlessly, including the latest addition to our fleet: the ARROW Mobile Tower – a vehicle mounted UTM solution.
As a business we’ve continued to grow and develop. We’ve taken part in projects and demonstrations across the globe, showcasing our platform and technologies. We’ve continued to deploy the GuardianUTM platform at airports, aerodromes, and test facilities through Europe and the Middle East, allowing airspace managers to manage on and off-site drone operations.
And, I’m proud to say that Altitude Angel is still operating very true to its core principles: we continue to lead the industry with a clear voice, with knowledge and – this is the real difference – based on actual experience. This year we have seen a flurry of new firms all claiming to be experts, but without any actual experience building, deploying, or maintaining real-world UTM systems. I continue to be surprised by the amount of people bamboozled by the glitzy ‘3D maps’ which, apparently, represent a fully functional UTM system!
At a national level, around the world, we continue to see various public procurements for UTM systems, yet, covering a lot of variety: in the past twelve months we’ve seen some that prohibit the use of ‘the internet’, some which must be entirely ‘on-premises’, and also seen others blazing ahead and really starting to focus on UTM ‘proper’: Australia and Sweden, as well as Lithuania, to name a few. As a company, we’ll be increasing our efforts to help share knowledge and lessons-learned from multiple, successful national scale deployments with our ANSP and National Aviation Authority partners around the world, to help others make the best purchasing decisions.
But what does 2023 hold? Well, one thing’s for certain: you’ll be seeing (and hearing) a lot more about us. About Skyway. About ARROW. From our partners. And, about the launch of a brand new service coming in January, plus some new mobile apps. And yet, of course, there are still dozens of challenges to overcome not just here, where our headquarters is in the UK, but right across the globe. But when I look out across the company, I know we’ve got the people to rise above them and to continue to lead in UTM.
What I do know is we will continue to innovate and lead in the UTM category, to bring together those who share our vision – and to understand the reasons why some may not – so we can make our vision of on-demand automated flight everywhere, for everyone, a reality.
May I take this opportunity to wish you, your families, and your loved ones a very merry Christmas and prosperous New Year. We’ll see you in 2023!