EASA publishes U-space opinion – “common information service provider cannot be a USSP”

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published its U-space opinion containing a draft regulation. As anticipated, the agency has stuck to its original proposal requiring that there should be only one common information service (CIS) provider per U-space airspace (though a State can define many different U-space areas within its airspace) and that a CIS organisation cannot also be the U-space service provider (USSP)

The draft opinion also defines mandatory U-space services: network identification, geo-awareness, traffic information and UAS flight authorisation.

These are some of the major elements of the opinion:

  • The Member States have full authority on the designation of the U-space airspace, and therefore have the power to decide how their airspace is designed, accessed, restricted, etc
  • The principle is that ANSPs provide air navigation services (ANS) to manned aircraft while USSPs provide U-space services to UAS operators. Both ANSPs and USSPs are certified to provide their respective services in a safe, secure and continuous manner. Within controlled airspace, U-space airspace is designated by the Member States and is dynamically managed by the ANSP. The safety of operations is guaranteed by the fact that manned and unmanned traffic will not mix with each other as they are dynamically segregated and ANS and U-space services are not provided at the same time in the same volume of airspace.
  • In uncontrolled airspace, the airspace remains uncontrolled for manned aircraft. But when the Member States designate a volume of airspace as U-space airspace, there is a restriction (therefore it could be established as a restricted area): for UAS operators, to use U-space services to fly in that airspace; and for manned aircraft operators, to make available their position at regular intervals to the USSPs. The latter can provide manned traffic information to unmanned aircraft or can geo-fence the unmanned traffic around the manned traffic. The manned aircraft operator will also be informed about the U-space airspace and the unmanned traffic either by the FIS provider or by the USSP, depending on the specific implementation
  • The following U-space services are considered necessary and mandatory to ensure safe and efficient operations in each U-space airspace implementation: network identification, geo-awareness, traffic information and UAS flight authorisation. In addition, Member States may decide that additional U-space services are needed to support safe and efficient UAS operations in specific volumes of U-space airspace implementation.
  • The fact that the Member States designate a common information service (CIS) provider does not mean that there is only one CIS provider per Member State; it means that there is only one provider per U-space airspace. There could be as many CIS providers as there are designated U-space airspaces. The reason for having one CIS provider per U-space airspace is to ensure that there is one single point of contact, one single point of truth that consolidates all the information necessary for the functioning of the U-space airspace.
  • The CIS is at the heart of the U-space system. The information will be managed by the CIS provider. This provider ensures that all the information can be exchanged between the various organisations to fulfil their obligations…The CIS works on the basis that the exchange of information is being ensured by application of (open) communication protocols allowing USSPs and ANSPs to exchange information through the appropriate interface. The USSPs shall use the information provided by the CIS provider to provide U-space services to UAS operators. This article also specifies that the CIS provider cannot be a USSP itself. This is necessary to ensure that there is no conflict of interest when the common information is made available to the different USSPs and that there is fair competition in the U-space services market. This provision is not derived necessarily from a safety point of view but more from a competition and market perspective.
  • It is important to note that in order to be a USSP, the interested entity needs to demonstrate its capability of providing at least the four mandatory U-space services (network identification, geoawareness, traffic information and UAS flight authorisation). They can contract out the provision of some or all U-space services to other entities as long as it remains under their management control.
  • In the short term, it is not considered that USSPs would provide ATC-like service in controlled airspace. If USSPs would provide ATC-like services (e.g. separation services for manned aircraft) within controlled airspace, they would need to meet the same certification requirements that ATS providers meet today and be designated as stipulated in the SES Regulation. This is not foreseen in the near future but as soon as U-space services similar to tactical separation services are mature (developed and validated), EASA would review the applicable regulations and defined the appropriate regulation proportionate to the safety risks associated with the service providers (e.g. with requirements equivalent to those applicable to ATS providers).
  • …the network identification service within U-space airspace operationally supports traffic safety and the…traceability of the unmanned aircraft during its flight. Indeed, based on this information, the USSPs can share UAS traffic information between themselves and therefore provide traffic information to UAS operations. This service meets the objective of providing advice and information useful for the safe and efficient conduct of UAS flights. The content of the information is based on the list included in Regulation (EU) 2019/945 for consistency and in order to avoid additional UAS equipment or capabilities in particular for the ‘open’ category. In addition, it is now specified that both broadcast and network information shall be received. This is consistent with the upcoming amendment to Regulation (EU) 2019/945 and supports the redundancy under certain use cases, although limited to certain cases of U-space airspace implementation.
  • When tracking service is used as a supporting service to provide traffic information services and support, for instance, the flight authorisation service… this service can be used to track the real-time and historical telemetry data of the UAS if the necessary supporting infrastructure exists and the UAS is flying in the range of the service capability. The providers of such service can track UAS through the signal between the aircraft and its remote controller as well as through additional surveillance observations available for the same UAS flight. They can then fuse all this information to calculate/estimate a UAS flight track. To be able to provide this service, there is a need to have different UAS flight information sources. The performance expected from this service will be based on the performance of the UAS flight information sources and the method and algorithm used for the tracking fusion. They shall be commensurate with the specific U-space airspace implementation and this shall be assessed during the certification process. In practical terms, this service receives data from the different tracking sources coming from the USSPs (e.g. e-identification), UAS or the CIS provider to fuse it into unique and reliable UAS flight tracks

Reaction to this opinion and further analysis will be provided in due course by Unmanned Airspace.

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