• Subscribe to our newsletter

5 minutes with... Frank Erb, Director Market Development on UTM solutions

Feb 28. 2024 

Hi Frank! Please tell us about yourself and why did you choose to join Thales? 

My career in the aviation industry spans over 3 decades. I graduated from ESIEA with a degree in Computer Networking and System Integration. And I was immediately recruited by Thales to join its Air Traffic Management division. I am passionate about aviation, and with Thales I’ve had the opportunity to fulfil my passion while working alongside talented and equally passionate colleagues. 

I spent the first seventeen years of my career at Thales in the air traffic management sector, where I held a variety of technical and management positions at different sites before heading up business development activities in Asia-Pacific.   

Keen to further developmy experience and my understanding of the Air Transport Industry I joined in 2008 the International Air Transport Association to transform and lead the global Air Traffic Management consulting business line.  

In 2012, I took up a management position in Dubai to lead Serco Aviation Business Line’s growth in the Middle East region and in the ASPAC region. 

Since 2017, I've been back at Thales to develop the Digital Aviation portfolio of the Airspace Mobility Solutions business around the world, including the UTM ecosystem, offering new business models and ways of working - with the aim of radically transforming and driving value creation for customers (and their customers). 


What is your current role at Thales?   

After more than 30 years overseas, I am now back in Europe and in France, where I am leading the business development activities of Digital Aviation Solutions in order to support the transformation of the airspace and to trigger the integration of drones and other autonomous aircraft – like the flying taxis – in our skies. 

Since July 2023, I am the President of the Systematic Hub Drones. The Drones’ Hub aims at strengthening the dynamics of the Paris Region sectorial branch and accelerate the development of the drone ecosystem in France and in Europe. 


On which solution/system do you work? 

Airspace Mobility Solutions’ digital portfolio included: TopSky - UAS, TopSky - Flow Manager, TopSky - Sequencer, and much more.  

 Thanks to my previous experiences, I offer strong business acumen, aviation industry expertise,experience working collaboratively with government officials and key stakeholders to develop solutions.  


What do you think are the current big challenges in UAS Traffic Management  (UTM) and how does Thales respond to that? 

The main challenges around UTM are: 

  1. Regulations: UTM requires clear and consistent rules and standards for the safety, security, and efficiency of UAS operations 
  2. Infrastructure: UTM depends on reliable and robust infrastructure assets, such as communication networks, data platforms, sensors, and landing sites, that can support the high volume and diversity of UAS operations 
  3. Integration: UTM needs to be compatible with the existing air traffic management (ATM) system and coordinate with various stakeholders, such as regulators, operators, service providers, and airspace users 
  4. Public acceptance: UTM faces social and ethical challenges, such as addressing the public’s concerns about the noise, safety, and privacy impacts of UAS operations, as well as educating and engaging the public about the benefits and opportunities of UTM 

Thales is responding to all those challenges by supporting the establishment of regulations, developing and deploying infrastructure, educating the communities – through the Hub Drones for example – and of course developing concepts to integrate unmanned traffic into the manned traffic airspace – which is our DNA. The Vantis project in North Dakota is the perfect example where Thales brings thought leadership developing a system of systems to enable BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) operations in an airspace that could be shared with manned aviation. 


What do you enjoy about your work? 

Working with passionate people willing to be challenged and to think outside of the box. 


Do you have any advice for people interested in joining Thales?  

Thales offers a variety of career opportunities for people with different backgrounds and skills, such as software and systems engineers, cybersecurity experts, project managers, production and repair technicians, and more. Thales values diversity, equity, and inclusion, and strives to create a culture where everyone can be their authentic selves, work with passion, and achieve their full potential. 


If you had to convince engineers to join AMS? What would you tell them? 

Very few people have the chance to participate to the creation of a new aviation, and to transform the way we see the skies … at Thales we can! 



#Air Traffic Management #ATC #UAS #UAV #UTM