More drones for Germany’s busy airspace

Frankfurt/Langen, GERMANY – Apparently, Germany seems to have liked the results and related recommendations from the U-Space sandbox trials conducted in Hamburg last year – so much that the country is considering launching proper unmanned traffic integration measures in a number of considerably busy airspaces next year.

Masterminded by the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the U-Space project took off on the port of Hamburg, which was closed off for traffic for the whole month of October 2021 so that participating partners could conduct trials for unmanned air mobility in real life situations.

The project created a unique traffic system for drones that would ensure that they fly safely in the busy European airspaces alongside other aircraft.

According to Droniq GmbH, one of the partners for the U-Space project, drones would receive their own kind of traffic system in regions with high air traffic, which should enable them to operate easily, safely and efficiently.

Last week, the results of those trials came out – and they were encouraging.

“With U-Space areas, drones can be safely integrated into the airspace – also in interaction with manned aviation,” Droniq said in a statement.

“This enables regular use of drones, for example in logistics, agriculture, for supplying hard-to-reach areas or transporting vital medical equipment. How U-Space areas can function in practice was tested in real operation in the U-Space real laboratory, which Droniq and (its parent company) DFS set up in the Port of Hamburg.”

Germany’s Federal Minister for Digital Affairs and Transport Volker Wissing agreed.

” The U-Space Reallabor has answered many important questions for us for the establishment of U-Space areas,” Wissing said. “We are now using this successful practical experience to enable progress. The first U-Space areas are to be established in Germany as early as next year.

“With around 400 companies, Germany is the lead market for drone technologies. We want to strengthen and further expand this technological lead of Germany.

“In this way, we will create safety in German airspace and enable more innovations in unmanned aviation.”

Findings and recommendations from the Hamburg trials, along with regulatory requirements from EASA U-Space regulations will be taken on board in future operations, the statement further said.

“Among the proposals is the recommendation to establish U-Space areas in model regions to gain further experience in their implementation and operation. For this purpose, Droniq and DFS recommend complex airspaces with busy unmanned and manned air traffic, such as large cities with airport connections.

“This is because a coordinating and regulating framework environment such as U-Space is particularly necessary in these areas. With increasing experience, further U-Space areas can be introduced, or existing U-Space areas can be expanded or interlinked. A catalogue of criteria developed by Droniq and DFS will help to assess when and where it makes sense to establish a U-Space area.”

In relation to the potentially competitive situation in the U-Space area, it was recommended that U-Space Service Providers (USSP) coordinate the drone traffic. In general, there can be several USSPs in a U-Space that compete with each other and offering competing or differing services at competing prices.

“For U-Space areas to promote the economic potential of drone operations, there needs to be competition that benefits drone operators,” says Droniq CEO, Jan-Eric Putze. “We look forward to welcoming other market players to U-Space alongside ourselves as a USSP.”

Putze added that he also hoped to see the establishment of U-Space areas in airport control zones if needed.

“By doing so, we pave the way for new Urban Air Mobility concepts, for example when it comes to flying from the airport to the city via air taxi.”

In addition, a proposal was made to establish a Single Common Information Service Provider, whose goal would be to ensure the efficient networking of all participating agencies in a U-Space area.

“On this basis, the operator of U-Space services – the U-Space Service Provider – can make its services available, as was demonstrated in the trial process. An integrated air situation picture for all stakeholders is the core for the safe operation of manned and unmanned air traffic.”

Angela Kies, Head of Unmanned Aircraft Systems at DFS said; “The findings from the real lab show that the implementation of the U-Space concept in Germany works, says “Implementation can now be consistently pursued to efficiently enable the safe use of drones.”

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