This topic aims at performing demonstration activities for identifying quick-win solutions enabling the safe integration of drones, in all kinds of airspace. Overall, these activities pursue a threefold goal:
To ascertain the fitness for purpose of those solutions in delivering the required services to the user community;
To contribute to and support the parallel prototype regulatory process for drones placed under the aegis of EASA;
To provide inputs to the concurrent standardisation processes both in the identification of perceived needs for standards.
Special emphasis is to be allocated to those applications perceived as the largest market segments within a maximum 5-8 year horizon or less, for example long-range surveying, light-load movement and long-endurance surveying, whose scope can be outlined as follows:
Long-range surveying covers the use of drones in the inspection of infrastructure such as oil, power and railway lines, or area surveillance for agricultural applications.
Light-load movement addresses the use of small drones at VLL for logistic services – e.g. the delivery of packages to the door-step.
Long-endurance surveying focuses on surveillance for extended periods of time, using larger drones, operating at low, medium and high altitudes.
This call should also be framed in the context of the recent “Warsaw Declaration” which acknowledged the need for urgent action on the airspace dimension, in particular the development of solutions for low level operations (“U-Space”).
With reference to the SJU Annual Work Programme 2016, this topic covers Section 3.5.4, sub Work area 2.3 topic b).
The breadth of applicability of many types of drone in the marketplace is extensive and it is clear that drones will operate in all classes of airspace with a varying degree of interaction with other airspace users. Reconciling this multiplicity of applications, together with the diversity of their associated service, operational and technical requirements, with the over-arching goal of guaranteeing safety, is a challenge of significant complexity. These demonstrations should be designed to provide a significant contribution to effectively tackle such a challenge in an efficient, cost-effective and timely manner.
Taking into consideration the accelerated pace of evolution of the drone industry, it is imperative to seek for fast-track approaches that rely on available concepts and technologies capable of achieving the objectives in hand. The aim is to reduce the lead-time to market for new solutions in order to avoid that their unavailability could become a major barrier to further development of the drone industry.
New approaches to procedure development, safety management, standardisation and regulation should be explored to enable expeditious deployment of these new technologies. Such approaches must be ultimately compatible with EASA’s evolving regulatory framework for drones and relate to on-going standardisation activities.
The demonstrations should aim at a proof-of-concept for drones traffic management operating within a representative service environment. This concept could combine different applications, with preference being given to those referred to above. This shall be achieved by live flying demonstrations of appropriate drones in an environment permitting the objectives of the project to be met.
It is likely that VLL drone operations will require an entirely new mechanism for managing them, and this is known as Unmanned aerial system Traffic Management (UTM), and such demonstrations shall support its development. VLL demonstrations should cover, in particular, the following core functionality of a UTM implementation:
E-identification and registration;
Surveillance and tracking;
Automatic flight permissions; and
Flight plan validation.
The aim will be ultimately to subsequently extend such functionalities towards Dynamic Airspace Management which is to be backed by a robust geo-fencing capability. Work contributing to the development of the latter is equally within the scope of this call. Demonstrations related to geo-fencing, shall include notably the following set of functionalities:
Drone location surveillance and tracking;
Monitoring of compliance of the drone operation with relevant rules and regulations;
Generation and management of no-fly zones based on aeronautical information (including NOTAMs) and aviation regulations;
Generation and management of no-fly zones for non-aeronautical reasons by appropriate agencies;
Generation and management of no-fly zones that become active while the drone is in flight;
Prevention of the drone from flying inside the defined no-fly zones, including those that change during flight.
A web-based platform should be considered to implement and manage the service; such platform should enable the connection of remote-pilot stations and the sharing of information with authorised external agencies.
The mix of different service applications that serve as the operational scenarios for these demonstrations should be representative of future drone traffic in a blend of rural, suburban and urban locations. In particular:
For long-range surveying the operational context may be VLL, VFR or IFR, and will primarily be BVLOS. There will be some degree of integration with other airspace users, inside and outside controlled airspace. Particular attention should be given to Detect and Avoid (D&A), communications with Air Traffic Control and any issues associated with separation provision for drones inside controlled airspace due to their dissimilar performance characteristics from manned aircraft.
For light-load movement the operational context will normally be BVLOS, fleet-oriented and potentially including some level of autonomy. Although such drones will operate below the levels of most conventional aerial activity, some degree of integration will be necessary.
For long-endurance surveying the operational context builds upon BVLOS. Although such operations can take place at all levels, including in airspace operated intensively by commercial aviation, the focus of this demonstration should be on the VLL environment.
Where applicable, the demonstration should address the required interfaces with Air Traffic Control. It should also cover the associated organisation concepts, the requirements for the scale-up of the demonstration into commercial products, and the identification of gaps – e.g. regulation, standardisation or additional R&D needs – required to enable wide scale implementations. In all cases, the over-arching emphasis of the work should be directed to the support of routine drone operations, not merely restricted to the conduct of trials and demonstrations.
In addition to the core topics described above, the following list proposes areas requiring study in the context of this demonstration. This list should not be considered prescriptive or exhaustive, and applicants may select from, expand or reorganise the issues as required to derive the maximum benefit from the proposed demonstrations:
Detectability of the drone;
Positioning and navigation including European GNSS (Galileo/EGNOS).
Use/management of autonomy;
Flight in accordance with appropriate Flight Rules, covering procedures, terrain/obstacle avoidance, weather avoidance etc.;
Compliance with instructions from ATC and interaction with other ground agencies as appropriate;
Data link issues, including performance, protection, failure procedures and spectrum management;
Security issues (including cybersecurity);
Operation of multiple drones by one operator; and
The demonstration activities should include:
the concept of operations that is to underpin the demonstration;
the high-level system architecture supporting its implementation, including notably potential interfaces with Air Traffic Control to suit operations inside controlled airspace;
the envelope of functional capabilities and the operational performance of the system set against the requirements associated to selected operational environment; this encompasses specifically information exchange, D&A and data communications, including the Command and Control link;
the requirements for the scale-up of the demonstration into commercial products;
the operational risk analysis;
the associated organisation concepts – e.g. functional role of different stakeholders in the whole value chain, elected business models, staffing including pilot competence issues, governance schemes – that are essential for a well-functioning service market to evolve and reach fruition;
the identification of gaps - e.g. regulation, standardisation or additional R&D needs – deemed required to enable subsequent fully-fledged commercial implementations.
The demonstrations have to be backed by an appropriate project management structure that is centred on timely delivery, including notably robust quality and risk management. This together with a sound result dissemination strategy that is fit-for-purpose of ensuring the widest and most effective utilisation of the results obtained.
The demonstrations will produce evidence to back “Quick Wins” solutions for the safe integration of drones in all classes of airspace with a particular emphasis on VLL operations, providing adequate responses to the urgent needs put forward by regulatory authorities and the drone stakeholder community at large.