Honeywell and Pipistrel demonstrate ground control station for commercial drones in Italian airspace

Honeywell, in collaboration with Pipistrel a Textron company, ENAV and D-Flight demonstrated ground control station technology using a multicopter drone at Gorizia Airport in Italy as part of the SESAR U-ELCOME research project. U-ELCOME aims to support the implementation of U-space services for the safe and secure integration of drones into airspace across Europe.

Honeywell’s Ground Control Station provided dynamic flight plan updates to handle contingency situations. When faced with challenges such as link loss or airspace alterations, the Ground Control Station diverted the drone to a secure alternate landing zone. During the beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS) demonstration, D-flight rendered U-Space services, demonstrating the functionality of flight plan submissions, activation, and real-time data sharing on surrounding traffic and air-space availability.

“This collaboration underlines the imminent importance of autonomy in aviation,” said David Shilliday, vice president and general manager, Advanced Air Mobility, Honeywell Aerospace. “Honeywell is channeling its avionics experience to craft a certifiable Ground Control Station, underscoring our commitment to innovative solutions for the unmanned aircraft segment.”

“U-space is crucial for the safe and efficient integration of drones into the airspace,” said Maurizio Paggetti, CEO at D-Flight and COO at ENAV. “It’s a key enabler for various applications and services that rely on drones and is an essential component of the future of aviation. ENAV Group is fully committed to demonstrating such services and, as leader of Italian cluster in U-ELCOME project, we are excited about the achievements of the initial integration of D-Flight services and Honeywell UAS Ground Control station. It represents an important milestone to mature the provision of U-space services in a complex ecosystem.”

Over the next year, Honeywell’s Ground Control Station is due to unveil additional capabilities, encompassing the management of multiple drones by a single operator and seamless handover of drones between different Ground Control Stations. Demonstrations with these enhanced functionalities including BVLOS flights are slated for the second half of 2024. The U-ELCOME project’s final demonstration is anticipated to include Pipistrel’s aircraft solutions with Honeywell’s Ground Control Station technology and d-flight’s U-Space services in Q2 2025.

The U-ELCOME Digital Sky Demonstration project is coordinated by EUROCONTROL, funded by CINEA, the European Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Executive Agency in cooperation with SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. The Italian cluster of the U-ELCOME project is led by ENAV.

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