Europe conjures complex drone ops vision

The first elements of a European blueprint for the development and deployment of ‘U-Space’ where drones can operate in complete safety were revealed last week in The Hague at the first International Robotics Week.

U-Space was first mooted by European transport commissioner Violeta Bulc at a high-level conference in November 2016, resulting in the Warsaw Declaration.

Drafted by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, the early blueprint sets out the vision for the U-Space, which aims to enable complex drone operations with a high degree of automation to happen in all types of operational environments, particularly in an urban context.

“When fully deployed, a wide range of drone missions that are currently being restricted will be possible thanks to a sustainable and robust European ecosystem that is globally interoperable,” said the SESAR JU.

The event brought together more than 150 stakeholders from air traffic management and aviation, as well as the drone industry both in Europe and worldwide to provide feedback on the draft blueprint, and to discuss the opportunities and challenges of making the U-Space a reality.

SESAR reports that participants largely welcomed the blueprint, noting that U-Space should be designed to be “flexible where possible and structured where necessary” and “risk-based” to ensure a swift and successful roll-out.

The event featured presentations and panel discussions on how the U-Space can benefit from developments in other domains such as the telecom and automotive industries in the areas of automation, digitisation and connectivity. The framework was likened to providing the rules of the road and then letting industry innovate and the service market to develop.

Speakers also highlighted the need to tackle such elements as interfacing with the conventional air traffic management systems, and the challenges related to keeping the human in the loop, security and data protection.

“The event concluded noting once again the huge opportunities offered by what may essentially become the third revolution of aviation, and the ability of U-Space to foster the growth of the drone service market so that it will become as ubiquitous as the internet in the years to come,” said SESAR.

The U-Space blueprint is expected to be finalised and delivered to the European Commission by May 2017.

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