The European Commission expects that the global marketplace for unmanned aircraft or drones will create more than 10 billion Euros in economic impact each year by 2035. U-space is a set of new services and procedures designed to support safe, efficient and secure access to airspace for these large numbers of drones. U-space is capable of ensuring the smooth operation of all categories of drones, all types of missions and all drone users in all operating environments. It provides not only the framework for routine drone operations, but also an effective interface to manned aviation, ATM/ANS service providers and authorities. The services are based on a high level of digitilisation and automation of functions, either on board the drone itself or on the ground.
Integrating drones into the airspace
Aircraft are one of the safest means of transport. This should remain the case, even with the massive increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones”. Skyguide has begun work, together with a number of partners, on developing a system to integrate these drones safely and efficiently into the airspace they use.
SESAR, Europe’s air traffic management research programme, estimates that some seven million drones will be flying in the continent’s airspace for leisure purposes by 2050, with a further 400 000 in use for commercial or official purposes. The development of the drone industry depends on our ability to integrate these vehicles safely and efficiently into the airspace they use. And it was to this end that the non-profit Global Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management Association (GUTMA) was founded back in July 2016 with skyguide participation.
How this goal could be achieved was demonstrated by skyguide and its project partners in Geneva in September 2017. The “U-Space” concept will provide the digital infrastructure, services and procedures required to give drones access to airspace while still ensuring the safety of other airspace users. As the successful live demonstration in Geneva underlined, skyguide is at the forefront in the development of such systems, and is well ready for the next step in the drone integration process.
U-Space should not be limited to a single country. And this is why skyguide is ensuring that it is developed in due and full compliance with all the requirements of the European Commission, which are being devised by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Skyguide seeks to be compliant to the standards defined by SESAR Joint Undertaking. Only a standard that goes beyond country-borders and its interests is sustainable. Skyguide is committed to setting up a U-space. We welcome the interest and inputs from European Commission.
The demand for drone services is steadily increasing, with the potential to generate significant economic growth and societal benefits, as recognised in the 2015 EU Aviation Strategy, and more recently in the 2016 SESAR Drones Outlook Study and Warsaw Declaration on drones. In order to realise this potential, the declaration calls for « urgent action on the airspace dimension, in particular the development of the concept of U-space ». Ultimately, U-space will enable complex drone operations with a high degree of automation to take place in all types of operational environments, including urban areas.
U-space must be flexible enough to encourage innovation, support the development of new businesses and facilitate the overall growth of the European drone services market while properly addressing, at EU level, safety and security issues, respecting the privacy of citizens, and minimising the environmental impact.