European DEGREE initiative aims for safe UAS operations in the ‘specific’ category

Most UAVs can be directly employed for the Open Category of UAS operation that, considering the risks involved, does not require prior authorisation by the competent authority nor a declaration by the UAS operator before the flight. Technology development and EU investments in GNSS receivers, including the DEGREE project, are now focusing on the requirements related to the Specific Category of UAS operation in terms of the security and safety of the navigation subsystems. This is due to the high added value of the multiple operations included in this category.

The DronEborne Galileo RecEivEr (DEGREE) project aims to develop a GNSS  receiver capable of providing a reliable and flexible solution to allow the safe conduct of SORA SAIL III & IV flight operations. Funded by EU EUSPA funds, the project comprises Qascom (as the prime contractor), UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía, Acorde, and EuroUSC (as subcontractors).

The objective of the DEGREE project is the development of an innovative Galileo Dual-Frequency receiver with a target TRL 7 at a competitive cost for fast market penetration.

Specific hardware components are being developed and manufactured by the consortium, as well as the integration of the latest technology in inertial measurements and a secondary GNSS receiver for redundancy purposes. Taking the experience of Qascom and Acorde, the receiver has the following key differentiators:

  • Dual GNSS Receiver (SDR + ASIC) and a Dual Antenna Hardware architecture that supports all GNSS constellations (i.e., Galileo, GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, QZSS, and SBAS).
  • Assured Navigation Engine to enable precise positioning and advanced integrity protection, using state-of-the-art antispoofing techniques.
  • Robust PNT using Galileo OSNMA to mitigate cybersecurity threats.
  • Support for the Galileo E6 High Accuracy Service (HAS) and L1/L5 SBAS.
  • Support for 5G as the signal-of-opportunity for navigational purposes.

The DEGREE receiver will be integrated with the Flight Control System and navigation solution provided by UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía. The procedures used for flight testing are designed to comply with the EASA regulations for UAV operations. For its part, EuroUSC will act as an expert in the field of UAS regulations and SORA, helping to identify the needs of the UAS sector in terms of European regulations for the Specific Category.

The DEGREE solution has been designed to give a reliable solution to the “commercial user” market that requires a high-end customizable product for professional applications, such as Infrastructure Monitoring, Oil/Gas Pipeline Inspection, Emergency Management, Delivery and Transport and Aerial Photography.

UAV Navigation-Grupo Oesía, Qascom, Acorde, and EuroUSC make up a consortium that sees regulation as an opportunity rather than a market barrier to extend the use of unmanned vehicles for daily usage. GNSS systems that demonstrate high redundancy and fault tolerance, as promulgated by the regulations, will be facilitated in the acquisition of the certification from EASA and the consequent “permit to flight” from its national aviation security agencies.

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