Droniq CEO Jan-Eric Putze on Creating a UAV Ecosystem

Droniq CEO Jan-Eric PutzeAt Amsterdam Drone Week, DRONELIFE had the opportunity for an exclusive interview with Jan-Eric Putze, CEO of German UTM company Droniq. Started in 2016 as Connected Drones, a research project of Deutsche Telecom and DFS, Germany’s air navigation service provider, Droniq offers a combination of hardware and software solutions designed to help integrate commercial drones into the airspace.

Droniq CEO Putze has a background in manned aviation which has fed his passion for the unmanned industry. “I’ve been a pilot since 1995 – I’m a commercial pilot and a flight instructor,” says Putze. “I see the need to integrate drones in the airspace: and to have the opportunity to do that in a new market is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Putze is also the President of the Alliance for New Mobility Europe (AME): formed just last month to bring together stakeholders in the European UAV and eVTOL market to drive work on standardization and integration forward.

While global airspace authorities have made significant progress on U-Space and UTM projects, standards still lag – and regulation still has a long way to go. That’s just the nature of the business, says Putze, but stakeholders can collaborate to move the process forward.

“We have a highly regulated air environment and a highly unregulated drone world,” Putze comments. “We’re trying to come together.”

“The drone economy innovates using trial and error – and that’s why it develops so fast, but manned aviation does’t work that way. Manned aviation has a proven approach: you don’t get safety for free. We cannot make manned aviation insecure, and it can be hard to combine those approaches.”

“The drone industry and manned aviation can learn from each other, by starting at smaller airports: training and building data, to understand the deconfliction issues. This is something that we should definitely do. [Commercial drone operation] has a risk, and we have to accept that we have a risk.”

Droniq CEODroniq and DFS developed Germany’s first drone traffic system in testing U-Space areas at the Port of Hamburg in 2021. As a U-Space Service Provider (USSP) Droniq acts as the coordinator for drone traffic in U-Space areas, the contact person for drone pilots. DFS acts as the Common Information Service Provider (CISP): sending Droniq relevant airspace and air traffic data. Droniq’s drone-agnostic tracker hardware sends information from the drone sensors into the ANSP, providing a unified view of air traffic.

While Germany’s U-Space system is already in testing, other European member states may take longer than the specified January 2023 deadline for implementing U-Space areas. That’s a problem for the European drone industry, says the Droniq CEO.

“If we want to make drones a viable product, we have to establish standards and make them safe,” he says.

“Regulations cannot keep pace with the technology. I don’t know when we’ll see the first U-Space, but we have to start learning now. We cannot miss participating in the industry.” Until regulations are shifted to accommodate drone technology, says Putze, the European drone industry may be held back as industrial customers wait for clarification.

“Why should industry invest if they don’t know what they are going to have to do to comply with regulations?” he says. “We have a proven way of inspecting a pipeline: regulations currently specify use of a helicopter. That kind of regulation will need to change.”

As U-Space is under development, Droniq works with commercial drone companies to help them understand current regulations and find new opportunities. Their efforts to integrate unmanned systems into the airspace have given the company an inside view on how to negotiate the rapidly shifting landscape of commercial drone operations in Europe.

“We have a combined view of manned and unmanned aviation – we have the complete picture,” says Putze. “This is pretty unique. We don’t fear the challenge of getting any drone into the air. We know what it takes to fulfill ideas in the commercial drone industry.”

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