The extraordinary worldwide boom in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) sector demands a complete overhaul of the air transport system as we know it, to one that is based on automation and digitisation and relies less on the human factor.

The growth of these operations demands that they be safely integrated with all other traffic. To this end, the European Commission has set up a regulatory framework that will allow UAS traffic to be automatically managed and integrated with manned aviation. This concept is known as U-space.

U-space is the set of services and procedures that are being developed in a coordinated manner to enable a high number of operations with unmanned aircraft, especially complex operations, in a way that is orderly, fluid, safe and attainable.

In order to comply with this European regulation, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda (MITMA) has set up a National Action Plan for the Deployment of U-space (PANDU). The document was developed under the leadership of the Civil Aviation General Directorate (DGAC), and jointly authored by the National Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) and ENAIRE. The Ministry of Defence also played a key role in its creation.

As this Plan is implemented, special attention will be paid to providing transparency and to informing all the stakeholders, especially regional and local governments, so they can be involved, since the system will have a strong urban component.

This plan calls on all the parties involved in the sector to promote the development of infrastructure and the implementation of U-space services in a coordinated and efficient manner throughout the country. High-level strategic decisions and possible regulatory developments will be required, in accordance with the European legislation that goes into effect in January 2023, following its approval in April 2021.

The Plan lays out four objectives, which will translate into specific action areas and activities over its lifetime:

1. Actions involving airspace.

2. Implementation of the national service provision model.

3. Deployment of U-space and CIS services and enablers for their provision.

4. Establishment of mechanisms for administrations to cooperate and collaborate.

To comply with this, working groups have been created involving the Civil Aviation General Directorate, the National Aviation Safety Agency, the Air Force Staff, the Ministry of the Interior, ENAIRE, and the air navigation providers Saerco and Ferronats, to provide technical support and assistance to CIDETMA (Inter-Ministerial Commission on Defence and Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda).

The deployment of U-space will result in two new service providers being integrated into the general system:

CISP: Common Information Service Provider

To offer a single and reliable source of all the common information. It will be responsible for providing the service to disseminate the static and dynamic data that will make it possible to offer U-space services.

USSP: U-space Service Provider

Users of U-space services will be able to have certified U-space service providers (USSP) manage their operations under competitive market conditions. They will actively coordinate with air traffic service providers (ATSPs), which they can do through the CISP, to exchange information and ensure the smooth flow of all operations.

The U-space Regulation lets each State decide on the model for providing U-space services. Spain has opted for a centralised model in which ENAIRE will be certified as the sole common information services provider (CISP).

With a view to its future certification as the sole CISP in Spain and a USSP for specific public sector activities, ENAIRE is working to develop and validate its U-space platform.

ENAIRE, as the national air navigation service provider and the only aeronautical information provider in Spain, will have a very important operational role in the safe integration of drones with conventional civil aviation.

It should be noted that, although military and state aircraft operations are excluded from the scope of application of the U-space Regulation, the involvement of military authorities in U-space airspace is considered essential to guaranteeing the level of safety and protection required in these airspaces. Therefore, the military must be part of the coordination, cooperation and collaboration mechanisms set up to implement U-space.