Airspace Integration of Drones in support of COVID Response

The reliance on Temporary Danger Areas or any other airspace segregation to accommodate ‘Beyond Visual Line of Sight’ (BVLOS) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operations in the UK is sustainable. It is imperative that solutions of safely integrate BVLOS operations with existing airspace users are found to unlock the economic and societal benefits of UAVS.

The aim of this project is to use existing internationally recognised systems, procedures and rules to establish and share, via a UTM platform and re-broadcast, a comprehensive air picture that both a UAV operator and other airspace users can utilise safely integrate their operations.

The project will develop a comprehensive electronic surveillance picture which will be re-broadcast via Traffic Information Service – Broadcast (TIS-B) to enhance the situational awareness of all suitably equipped airspace users. Additionally, Flight Information Service – Broadcast (FIS-B) will be used to share information about activation of this surveillance environment and provide comprehensive weather data covering the area for all airspace users.

The project will also demonstrate the core functions of UTM through the integration of electronic surveillance, weather and ground data (terrain, obstacles etc.) for use by the remote UAS pilots to support effective flight operations and inform their avoid decisions by adhering to the same basic international rules and techniques adopted by all other pilots.

Should the trial be successful and achieve all the objectives in terms of operational efficiency and safety, the solution will be tested further in alternative locations and environments, with even more challenging objectives (such as multiple simultaneous BVLOS operations, integration with existing controlled airspace and IFR operations) which would enable widespread commercial utilisation of BVLOS UAV operations in a wide range of user cases. The project will ensure the eventual Concept of Operations is transferable to any volume of airspace in support of BVLOS UAV applications and is not reliant on a single surveillance and/or UTM provider but is interoperable with existing ATM operations and other airspace users.

Key challenges the project addresses:

The core challenge for this project is not based on the surveillance and re-broadcast technology as that is proven technology (although not in the UK). The key challenge is the demonstration of how the technology is incorporated within the UTM system and then safely interpreted and used by UAS operators to enable the CAA to approve their BVLOS operations in non-segregated airspace i.e integrated with other airspace users.

The Consortium

Trax, uAvionix UK, Plane Finder and ANRA Technologies UK are working together with trial hosts Goodwood Innovation Centre and trial participants Skyports and Auriga Aerospace on a project that aims to prove a concept of safe BVLOS UAS operations alongside conventional traffic in non-segregated airspace.

This project is partly funded by UK Research and Innovation: Drone solutions for COVID-19

Project completion date: November 2021

Progress on the project can be followed on the CAA Airspace Change Portal. To see the progress of the project, click here.

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