EASA’s U-Space project goes live in Germany

While the Gulf of Finland 2.0 project to integrate drone technology into the European skies is taking shape with the first flight tests in Estonia, another similar project is also catching fire in Germany.

The U-Space project is taking a further step in the port of Hamburg and moving from just being on paper, having cordoned off a section of the port to other traffic so they can solely reserve it as an unmanned air mobility sandbox from the 30th of September until the 30th of October this year.

“We are now launching Germany’s first test field for drone airspace in Hamburg and creating the conditions for the transport system of the future,” Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure Andreas Scheuer said last week. “In the U-Space real-world laboratory, we are testing in practice how drones and, in the future, air taxis can be safely and intelligently integrated into the airspace. Especially for logistics, as support for rescue workers or for the supply of rural areas, drones are a clean, fast and smart mobility solution. With the U-Space real-world laboratory, we are bringing the drone innovations made in Germany out of the niche and into the air.”

Masterminded by the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the U-Space project aims at creating a unique traffic system for drones that would ensure that they fly safely in the busy European airspaces alongside other aircraft. According to Droniq, one of the partners for the U-Space project, drones will receive their own kind of traffic system in regions with high air traffic, which should enable them to carry out flights easily, safely and efficiently.

The Hamburg sandbox – which will have a size of about ten square kilometres – will allow for the real-world trial of coordinated flight operations between unmanned and manned aviation for the first time in Germany. Several test flights will be taken for the duration of the project, in which various complex flight situations will be tried; as well as other salient issues like automated communication with and between drones and other air traffic participants, the organisation of airspace, the registration of aircraft and their users, automated flight permits for drones; and the provision of a complete air situation picture with manned and unmanned air traffic in real time.

“The first requirements have already been defined and are to be implemented by the (EASA) member states by the beginning of 2023,” Droniq said. “On the occasion of the research project “U-Space Sandbox Hamburg”, a restricted area (ED-R) will be established over the Port of Hamburg from September 30 to October 30 2021. The ED-R is divided into a north and south sector, which are connected via a corridor at Waltershof.

“The northern sector stretches north to south from Speicherstadt almost to Reiherstieg and east to west from Kleiner Grasbrook to Waltershof. The southern sector stretches north to south from Waltershof to Moorburg and east to west from Altenwerder to Francop.”

Besides Droniq, other partners to the project comprises DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung, the Authority for Economy and Innovation Hamburg, Hamburg Port Authority, HHLA Sky, Hamburg Aviation as well as the consortium of the BMVI-funded project UDVeo.

“Our mission is to integrate drones into the airspace as regular road users,” said Droniq CEO, Jan-Eric Putze. “Thanks to the U-Space, the full potential of drones can now also be used in urban areas within a given framework in the future. This is a milestone for unmanned air traffic. We are proud to show for the first time what this future can look like.”

It seems the U-Space project has already been a success in Switzerland where, after a successful series of tests, the project was rolled over to the rest of the country last month.

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