Brussels Airport and skeyes test BVLOS drone flights and drone detection system

Brussels Airport and skeyes have started testing the operational use of drones at and around the airport, according to a company press release. During two test days on 31 March and 1 April, the airport and skeyes deployed a safety drone, controlled from a distance, to find out how drones can increase the safety, security and efficiency of airport operations. In addition, a drone detection system is being tested to detect unwanted drones, as these are not allowed in normal circumstances at and around the airport.

Given the large surface area of the airport, a drone can be a means of quickly gaining a unique perspective of the situation at a particular location on the airport grounds. In cooperation with Citymesh, drone operator and partner for the private 5G network at the airport, this is tested using the safety drone for the first time at Brussels Airport. For this test the Citymesh drone pilot was not on site, but in West Flanders (Bruges). Via 5G he controlled the drone beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS)

During the test days, it will be investigated how the drone can be used for inspection rounds on the grounds and for monitoring the airport area, where the drone can function as remote binoculars in addition to physical inspections. A second simulation concerns an aircraft incident where a drone can arrive very quickly to get a first impression of the situation and to be able to already pass on important information to the emergency services. A drone could also be used for animal-related inspections, such as for birds or rabbits, at the airport, as these animals can be dangerous to aircrafts taking off or landing.

The second objective of the test days was to find out whether drones could be detected in the vicinity of the airport using a combination of various technologies. This allows for the detection of both cooperative drones, the flight of which is authorised and which share their location, and non-cooperative drones. Several drones are used during the test to subsequently identify them.

The drone operator must contact the regulator to request their flight in advance. During the test, it is checked whether the flight authorisation data correspond to the flight actually performed. In addition to visual observation by pilots, airport security or air traffic controllers, detection via high-tech systems is the only way of quickly discovering non-authorised flights. On the drone traffic management platform of SkeyDrone, a subsidiary of skeyes, the data from the drone detections and flight authorisations are compared, processed and visualised. Based on these results, it is now possible to further investigate which technologies can offer the greatest added value.

Arnaud Feist, Brussels Airport CEO said: “It is important for our airport to continue to focus on innovation. Although drones and aviation do not initially seem like a good combination, this is a new reality, the possibilities of which must be explored. Today, thanks to our private 5G network, we managed to control a drone remotely, which is an innovative first together with our partners. Drones can be additional tools in our operations, and these tests will give us more insight into the possibilities.”

Since the entry into force of the new European legislation on drones, skeyes is responsible for authorising drone flights in the airspace around Belgian airports. Drone pilots who want to fly their drones around an airport have to apply for flight authorisation with skeyes via the DSA (Drone Service Application), a tool especially developed for this purpose by SkeyDrone. Through the DSA application, both the pilot and skeyes can follow the flight in real time. All test flights that have been taking place this week were planned in coordination with the air traffic controllers.

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