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European drone-airspace integration project kicks off

Photo by: aerogondo/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo by: aerogondo/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

GMV has been awarded the SUGUS project (Solution for E-GNSS U Space Service), which aims to speed the adoption of GNSS and Galileo in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) segment and ensure safe airspace access by unmanned aircraft.

SUGUS is an 18-month, 485,000-euro European Union research and development project. A series of trials will be held to show the benefits of E-GNSS for drone operators as well as its approval by aviation authorities.

The project will be carried out by a GMV-led consortium including Everis Aerospace, Defense and Security; VVA Brussels; EGNOS service provider ESSP; FADA-CATEC and Unifly.

The demand for UAV services is steadily increasing, with the potential to generate significant economic growth, as recognized in the 2015 European Union Aviation Strategy. More recently, the 2016 European Drones Outlook Study (by SESAR — Single European Sky ATM Research) estimated that the European drone market will clock up 10 billion euros a year by 2035 and more than 15 billion euros annually by 2050.

U-Space services

U-Space is a set of new airspace-management services and procedures designed to ensure airspace access too UAVs while looking out for operational security, the right to privacy and the safety of persons and infrastructure. These services rely on a high level of digitization and function automation, whether onboard the drone itself or part of the ground-based environment.

Several initiatives are underway in Europe to develop U-Space and work toward the safe and efficient coexistence of manned and unmanned air traffic.

At the same time, new European legislation on operating unmanned systems is providing a uniform, Europe-wide framework. The new regulation is broken down into three drone operation categories:

  • Open, calling for no AESA clearance or operator declaration
  • Specific, where both clearance and declaration will be necessary
  • Certified, reserved for riskier operations.

To help integrate drones into the airspace, SUGUS will center on the Open and Specific flight categories.

SUGUS tasks

SUGUS will demonstrate the benefits for drone operations of the measures implemented at service-provision level and the new EGNSS API (European GNSS application programming interface) to be implemented in the project.

These benefits included the mitigation of operating risks, improvement of preparation processes and clearance of the operator’s mission. Such measures as expected to ease future urban aerial mobility operations, such as aero taxis or parcel delivery.

For the first step in this endeavor, SUGUS will carry out a review of the results of previous EGNSS projects while also pinpointing the needs of drone operators and unmanned traffic service providers in complex operations and built-up areas.

This analysis will help to define and then implement the new EGNSS-based API.

SUGUS will also be running several flight trials in complex environments to prove the benefits of the drone-operation measures. The overarching idea is to raise awareness and contribute towards drone standardization and regulation to maximize the chances of the proposed services being implemented as a U Space service.

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