Urban area BVLOS operations require ‘continuous communication with central base’- AirborneRF

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport (BMDV) has published a report outlining a plan to create new U-space airspaces in Germany. It includes the definition of U-space and outlines the requirements for both private and public stakeholders involved in the future establishment of these new airspaces. The report first discusses the laws that authorize their creation in the European Union before identifying the predicted locations for future operations.

The BMDV overview states: “In most cases, U-spaces are established in agglomeration areas because a strong demand for drone operations and high traffic density can be expected there. However, there are also arguments for U-spaces where the integration of unmanned aviation into existing traffic structures may be necessary for other reasons (e.g. military airspaces, cross-border UAS operations).”

Agglomeration areas are considered to be urban areas that have been essentially connected to one another. In Germany, these include Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich and the Ruhr-Düsseldorf-Cologne region, which is often referred to as the Rhine-Ruhr area. These areas are also considered to have high population densities.

AirborneRF sees telecommunication-based connectivity as central to the creation of U-space airspaces in Germany. According to the company, “continuous communication with the operating central base is required for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations. This comprises recognizing others in occupied airspaces, reacting accordingly, allowing them to see the drone’s position, and understanding changing ground risks such as population density.” The company blog is reproduced below:

The requirements for establishing a U-space in Germany – Airborne RF

The BMDV document states that the creation of a U-space airspace is subject to the fulfillment of several criteria by the relevant stakeholders. These criteria include demonstrating the feasibility of integrating manned and unmanned airspace, receiving a positive evaluation from the BMDV alongside the submission a U-space application, demonstrating that UAS operations are economically viable enough to support the USSP, and ensuring that the USSP responsible for the U-space can maintain it in perpetuity.

As a result, smaller cities may not be part of the initial roll-out of new U-spaces until the costs of scaling for the USSPs have decreased to the extent that expansion to a different region with fewer UAS operations can maintain their financial stability.

We’ve roughly translated the German requirements into English, so you can understand the criteria needed before the need for a U-space airspace is considered to be fulfilled:

  • The integration of unmanned aviation into existing transport structures is possible and necessary with a view to ensuring safe aviation.
  • An application and a positive assessment by the U-space coordinator for the establishment of a U-space has been submitted to the Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr (BMDV) and is granted — the assessment is based on objective criteria.
  • U-space has to be big enough to generate sufficient income for UAS operators
  • There is a high demand for the services of the USSP, which is suitable to cover the costs and enable the USSP companies to make a secure living.
  • USSPs are available that can ensure the maintenance of the U-space on a permanent basis.

Before U-space services can be provided in these areas, additional criteria for the establishment of a U-space airspace need to be met. These are only taken into consideration after the initial five criteria we listed above for the necessity of a U-space have been met.

By implementing these requirements, the German government aims to avoid collisions with other traffic sources (in the air, on the ground and on or under the water), as well as noise and pollution hazards.

These requirements include the following (please note these are translations. Please refer to the German original):

  • Information and regulations regarding the U-spaces, including the respective approved U-space Service Providers (USSPs), are to be published on the Federal Digital Platform for Unmanned Aerial Systems (www.uas-betrieb.de). This includes information pertaining to the purpose of the U-spaces, the geographical areas, the respective USSPs, the technical requirements for the operation of UAS and possible exemptions as well as the technical requirements for the UAS. According to Article 3(6) of DVO (EU) 2021/664, information shall also be made available through the aeronautical information service (Flugberatungsdienst).
  • The ground areas of the U-spaces are composed of hexagons, whose position is defined by means of the WGS-84 coordinate system. All U-space-related services, such as those of the USSPs, are based on the specified hexagons.
  • This should also enable a smooth reconfiguration of the U-space.
  • The concerns of environmental protection, in particular nature and noise protection, as well as consumer protection, must be adequately taken into account.
  • The BMDV or a federal authority designated by it shall appoint a U-space Coordinator whose task it shall be to coordinate, with the participation of the competent authorities (in particular the regional aviation and environmental authorities and LufABw/ competent unit in the GB BMVg), including the local authorities and units (Article 18f DVO (EU) 2021/664), included are application documents, for the designation of U-spaces and examined for suitability, necessity and appropriateness alongside a risk assessment to be carried out, covering at least the areas of:
  1. Safety of manned and unmanned aviation
  1. Security, both physical and digital,
  1. Environment, including noise, emissions, water quality, animals, nature conservation protected areas,
  1. privacy, including data protection
  • Changes to U-space (or parts of it) require a new risk assessment and involvement of the national aviation and environmental authorities as well as any other authorities and bodies concerned prior to commissioning. If circumstances change, which may have an impact on the risk assessment, a new risk assessment is also required.
  • The approval of the Ministry of Defense is required for the designation of U-spaces if (low-altitude) air routes and airspaces under military jurisdiction are affected.
  • U-spaces that are established must have a Single Common Information Service Provider (Single CISP) and at least one USSP.
  • The Single CISP is designated in accordance with Article 5(6) of the DVO (EU) 2021/664 and each USSP must be authorized to provide their services in accordance with Articles 14 to 16 of the DVO (EU) 2021/664. In the case of USSPs with their headquarters in Germany, authorization and supervision (including audits) are carried out by the BAF. Providers of U-space services whose main place of business is in another EU Member State or in a third country must apply for approval from the same other Member State or from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The authorization is valid for an unlimited period of time, provided that the company concerned continues to provide the services described in the authorization and that no facts justifying the withdrawal of the authorization become known.
  • At least every two years, the Single CISP and the USSP, as long as they have their principal place of business in Germany, shall be audited by the BAF in accordance with Annex II, Subpart B, ATM/ ANS.AR.C.010.
  • UAS operators may only operate UAS in U-spaces if they use an approved USSP; authorities and organizations with security tasks (BOS) may deviate from this.
  • Each U-space must be equipped with a standardized telecommunication network covering the entire U-space with a range not lower than the maximum altitude of the U-space. The telecommunication network shall have a data rate that ensures full and error-free provision of all USSP services to all UAS operators and communication between USSP and the Single CISP at all times and in “real-time” throughout U-space.
  • As part of the risk assessment, the U-space coordinator obtains the results of the examination by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) that the telecommunications network has the required data rate and that effective measures have been taken to ensure the network’s ability to function even if individual components fail.
  • UAS not operated by BOS must give priority to manned and unmanned aircraft of BOS in U-spaces.
  • In U-spaces with control areas, coordination procedures between the ATC unit, Single CISP, and USSP shall be established in accordance with Article 1(2)(b) DVO (EU) 2021/665.

The creation of new U-spaces will facilitate the development of the drone industry in Germany, which heavily relies on telecommunications connectivity, as seen in the requirements listed above. This is great news for those in the telecommunications industry, as existing infrastructure can be used to support the developing drone industry.

AirborneRF adds that it supports these new requirements and has already worked with existing telecommunications provider Vodafone and others to co-create a solution that already meets the above requirements, e.g. with DronNet.

Communication architectures as an additional U-space requirement in Germany 

In addition to the telecommunications requirements that stipulate the need for mobile connectivity providers for UAS operators, there are additional requirements for communication architectures that need to be built and maintained.

Several of these requirements include the ability to communicate between several stakeholders quickly during real-time operations (both private and public), which is likely why telecommunications networks are required, as they’ve already been proven capable of accomplishing this.

These requirements include the following (rough translations from the original document):

  • The communication procedures between air traffic services, the Single CISP, USSPs, BOS and UAS operators must be digitalized and automated to the greatest possible extent. The goal is the digital networking of all participants in an overarching system network.
  • The Single CISP is the central hub where all data relevant to the operation of the U-space is bundled and forwarded to the USSP, flight control units and authorities via suitable interfaces.
  • If the U-space is in airspace G, every manned aircraft not operated by BOS (first responders) must report its operational data and flight path digitally to the Single CISP in good time before entering the U-space. Separate procedures apply to BOS (p. 16f).
  • If the U-space is in airspace D (CTR), the ATC unit shall report in advance to the Single CISP all available and relevant operational data of manned aircraft approaching or flying in the U-space in accordance with point ATS.OR.127 of the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373. The Single CISP shall pass this information to the USSP.
  • Based on the messages from the manned aircraft and the operational data transmitted by the ATC unit, the Single CISP automatically defines a corridor based on the defined hexagons around the respective manned aircraft and its intended route and integrates it into the air situation picture so that manned traffic cannot be endangered by UAS when flying through the U-Space.
  • All USSPs shall receive from the Single CISP, on a non-discriminatory basis and of equal quality, the required operational information and the digital air situation picture in “real-time” or as specified in the risk assessment.
  • All USSPs report to the Single CISP in digitized form for any authorized operation of UAS as well as the activation of the permit to fly. The Single CISP integrates the data into the air situation picture.
  • All USSPs report all relevant operational data of the UAS they are in charge of to the Single CISP in a digitalized form in real-time. The Single CISP integrates the data into the air situation picture.
  • The Single CISP reports the position data of all UAS located in U-spaces in control zones to the respective responsible air traffic control units in a digitalized form in “real-time”.
  • If the telecommunication network is not fully functional, the U-space must be blocked until the network is functioning properly again.

Continuous communication with the operating central base is required for BVLOS drone operations. This comprises recognizing others in occupied airspaces, reacting accordingly, allowing them to see the drone’s position, and understanding changing ground risks such as population density.  Because new U-space airspaces will be created in areas with higher population densities (due to the economic impact it will have on the USSP), it means telecommunication-based connectivity will become a core to the creation of U-space airspaces in Germany.

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