DOMUS tests drone operations in manned airspace

Members of the DOMUS consortium led by ENAIRE have completed a SESAR U-space demonstration to show unmanned aircraft can coexist in the same airspace as commercial and general aviation. The exercise doubled as a testing laboratory using an actual drone and manned crew. It showcased numerous advanced features for managing drones automatically, such as conflict detection between drone flight paths, as well as communication between the U-space system and Spain’s air traffic management system.

The tests considered various scenarios, such as the use of unmanned aircraft to deliver parcels or in a fire emergency. These uses and applications are just some examples of the endless possibilities and missions that drones can carry out and that need to be integrated into a single system (U-space) that can manage them without any risk to them or to third parties. In addition, the operation of a drone in a U-Space urban setting in conjunction with a Smart City platform was demonstrated for the first time in the town of Villacarrillo, in the region of Jaén. In short, the goal is to ensure that drones can coexist with the other actors that use the airspace, including commercial aviation, which is highly vulnerable in environments near airports, as well as general aviation.

Spain’s Ministry of Development, through the Civil Aviation General Directorate, has developed a drone strategy that covers all areas, from the aircraft themselves to ancillary services, as well as the necessary management of operations. Together with ENAIRE, the air navigation service provider in Spain, the Ministry has developed an Action Plan for rolling out the so-called U-space services that is fully consistent with the Plan that the European Commission has developed for the automated and computerised management of drone operations.

The DOMUS Project is part of a European network of U-space demonstrations being held within the scope of the SESAR programme. The budget for the exercises totals four million euros: half of this is financed by the consortium members and the other half via community funding. This latest demonstration phase provided an example of the complete integration of drones into airspace. In the case of Spain, the tests were conducted in Jaén and Lugo.

A total of seventeen companies comprise DOMUS. In addition to ENAIRE, Alg, Isdefe, Ineco, Correos, CRIDA, Indra, GMV Aerospace & Defence, Everis Aeroespacial y Defensa, Earth Networks, FADA-CATEC, FuVeX, Pildo Labs, SOTICOL Robotics Systems, Vodafone España, SCR and AirMap.

The European Commission estimates that 100,000 drones will be in the sky in 2020 and that half a million units will be operating by 2050. It is estimated that activities involving unmanned aircraft will generate 100,000 new jobs and reach a turnover of 10 billion euros a year.

(Image: ENAIRE)

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