Europe to test drone airspace integration systems


A series of drone demonstration projects are set to begin in Europe to develop manned/unmanned traffic management.

The €9.5bn (US$10.8bn) U-space program consists of nine projects which will test a range of drone operations and their interaction with manned aviation in rural and urban locations across Europe. These could include parcel deliveries in dense urban locations, medical emergencies and police interventions, maritime search and rescue missions, and forestry inspections.

The 18-month drone demonstration projects are set to begin in January 2019.

One of these projects is EuroDRONE, due to begin in Missolonghi, Greece, which aims to connect operators, regulators, law enforcement agencies and product developers – and the different systems they use – in a single environment.

EuroDRONE is made up of cloud software and transponders to be installed on drones. It is a self-learning system operating in a distributed computing environment and offering multiple levels of redundancy, fail-safe algorithms for conflict prevention/resolution and asset management.

Professor Antonios Tsourdos, head of the Centre for Autonomous and Cyber-Physical Systems at Cranfield University in the UK, which has recently joined the project, said, “Drones and autonomous vehicles have a wide range of potential uses which are currently underexploited. The presence of unmanned aerial vehicles in our airspace will become increasingly common and test programs such as this are crucial to ensuring they can operate safely alongside one another and manned aircraft.

“Unlike the recently announced National Beyond visual line of sight Experimentation Corridor (NBEC) extending from Cranfield Airport, the EuroDRONE testbed is located over the sea and will provide valuable experience of operating drones both nationally and internationally in different environments.”

Researchers at Cranfield are working on path planning and clearance procedures for drones, connectivity between airports and drones, the tracking of drones to monitor their operations and behaviour, and the assessment and development of appropriate sense and avoid techniques.

Other participants in the EuroDRONE project include Aslogic, Dronsystems Limited, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, Hellenic Post, the University of Patras and Romanian Post. The project is being coordinated by the University of Patras in Greece.

More information about U-space, which is part of the European Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) joint undertaking, can be found here.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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