The EU has launched the European SAFEDRONE project, aimed at fostering some of the largest European flight demonstrations of drones and aircraft sharing airspace at very low altitude. The programme will seek to develop the so-called U-Space – a series of innovative digital services that provide the key to unleashing the capacity of drones to provide a wide variety of services at altitudes up to 120m in both urban and rural areas.
Funded by the EU, through Horizon 2020 and the SESAR Joint Undertaking, the project is being launched by a consortium led by Indra and comprising the Centre for Advanced Aerospace Technologies (FADA-CATEC), Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Unifly, the University of Seville, ENAIRE (the Spanish state-owned air traffic management and navigation services company) and CRIDA (Air Traffic Management Research, Development and Innovation Reference Centre).
The exercises will involve up to eight aircraft of different types – drones as well as fixed- and rotary-wing light aircraft – flying simultaneously in the same airspace. They will include beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operations in rural and semi-urban areas, recreating situations such as the delivery of medical supplies, aerial mapping and land surveying.
All tests and flights will take place at the ATLAS Experimental Flight Centre located in Villacarrillo (Jaén), Spain.
Maintaining security levels in air operations at very low altitude will require a high degree of digitalisation and automation of a large number of functions. The SAFEDRONE project aims to define and detail pre-flight services, including electronic registration, electronic identification, planning and flight approval, as well as in-flight services such as geolimitation or geofencing, flight tracking, dynamic airspace information and automatic technologies to detect and avoid obstacles.