The European project for air traffic management

As you’ll know, we’re in an era of changes in the UAS sector (Unmanned Aircraft Systems or drones), with EASA immersed in a complex process of unifying European and other countries’ drone regulations.

In this framework and quite delayed in contrast to the US drone laws (FAA), U-Space emerges; an ambitious project to create a complex European ecosystem in airspace where all type of aircraft can coexist in harmony.

This is what we are going to tell you about in this article. We’re going to see what exactly U-Space is, why it’s so important, how it will be implemented, and what drone pilots and operators can expect from this.

Let’s begin!

From the beginning,

Who’s behind U-Space?

The SESAR project (Single European Sky ATM Research) began in 2004 assuming the role of the technological arm of the SES (Single European Sky). Its primary mission was the definition, development and strategy execution to increase performance of the European ATM as well as building an intelligent transport system.

Founded by the European Union and Eurocontrol, in 2007 SESAR JU (Joint Undertaking) was born, a large public-private collaboration between the main representatives of the international aviation sector.

Today, SESAR JU is made up of 19 members who can be found in the administrative bodies of airspace and large manufacturers of the aviation industry, among others.

So, what is U-Space?

You already know that a UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) is a compendium of new procedures, tools and specific services, designed to promote the integration and coordination of UAS with other airspace users in a safe and efficient way.

Well, the European Union named U-Space as the aforementioned Single European Space (SES) project. U-Space will be the equivalent to the ATM to the crewed aircraft of European airspace.

What is expected with the creation of U-Space, is a way to integrate all types of aircraft so they can coexist and cooperate in harmony within the totality of our airspace.

For this, a scheme has been designed to forecast operations in airspace, creating separate spaces on specific different security levels based on the operational risks of crewed aircraft.

Furthermore, the basis of this great achievement consists in achieving high digitalisation and automation of functions in drones as in the ground control segment.

U-Space’s goals

  1. Guarantee the security of all airspace users and people on the ground.
  2. Create a system to increase flexibility for growing demand and volume of services with drones, while facilitating the integration with crewed aviation services.
  3. Allow high complexity operations with multiple autonomous drones under supervision of several operators (not in all EU countries).
  4. Guarantee access of all airspace users in a fair and equal manner.
  5. Facilitate the provision of services with UAS, supporting the business model of the drone operators in their different activity sectors.
  6. Facilitate the access of drones in airspace using technologies and infrastructures of the aeronautical sector or other, such as communication satellites or navigation systems.
  7. Establish adequate security, protection and resistance requirements, and at the same time minimising environmental impact and respecting the privacy of citizens, including data protection.

U-Space deployment phases

For a perfect transition to the ideal scenario project U-Space is proposing, four progressive phases have been planned to deploy the automatisation process in the next 10 years.

U1: U-Space Foundation Services

This first phase of implementation in which we are immersed right now, will provide services such as identification and electronic registration, or geofencing (geo-spacial perimeter of a zone or area limiting the non authorised access).

In addition, phase U1 of U-Space will allow:

  • Identification of drone operators and inform them of restricted flight zones.
  • Allow for more operations, especially in areas where population density is low. For this, the range will be increased for VLOS operations, and will open up the limitations of BVLOS flights.

[Related Post]: The FAA launches BEYOND programme with a special focus on BVLOS flights.

U2: U-Space Initial Services

The second phase of implementation expected for 2022 refers to a combination of services to back the managements of the operation of drones in relation to:

  • Tactical Geofencing
  • UAS tracking
  • Flight plan management
  • Meteorological information
  • Management of Aeronautical regulations referring to drones
  • Procedure interface with ATC
  • Emergency management
  • Air conflict management
  • Airspace monitoring
  • Traffic information

As a consequence of the considerable increase in digitalising processes, U-Space phase U2 will allow a higher density of operations than in phase U1.

Additionally to facilitate BVLOS flights without the need of geo-fences and associated notification periods, without the need for DAA (Detect and Avoid); all thanks to optimised flight planning and the new design of the aerospace zones.

To complete the services, this phase of U-Space will include:

  • Tracking, monitoring, and traffic information in some airspace zones.
  • Real time emergency tracking.
  • Geo-fences with immediate effect.
  • Support in planned and non planned incursions within the controlled airspace.

U3: U-Space Advanced Services

On the implementation scale of U-Space is phase U3, planned for 2025 which will depend on the results obtained from the implementation of U2.

This way, a successful phase U2 will mean for phase U3, new and improved operations in areas with high population density, or will mean an increase of difficulty of the procedures such as:

  • Dynamic geofencing
  • Collaborative interface with the ATC
  • Management of air conflicts
  • Dynamic management of capacity

These new cooperative technologies will allow a significant increase of operations in all environments, and will also offer improved support for interaction with ATC, or to detect new geo-fences in flight.

U4: U-Space Full Services

Phase U4 is the final phase to implement U-Space. It’s planned for 2030 and focused on services which offer integrated interfaces with ATM/ATC and crewed aviation.

At this point, it’s about achieving perfect interaction of VFR and drones, as all aircraft include means of being detected by Drones or that they are capable of seeing VFR in some way.

What do you think about the U-Space project?

Without any doubt, it’s a great new for all that are part of the UAS sector, although we believe it should have been started earlier.

We believe it’s fundamental for the coexistence of all types of aircraft in airspace. Furthermore, we need to be become accustomed to more and more tasks being carried out by drones, as UAS are no longer the future, but our most tangible present reality.

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