The number of drones being used worldwide is increasing rapidly, both for commercial and personal reasons. Businesses are making long-term investments, and the small aircrafts are quickly becoming the chosen method of delivery. With this increase in the number of drones, comes the need to develop a way of regulating the area that they will operate in. In 2017, SESAR Joint Undertaking, drafted a blueprint for a project, known as U-Space, which will regulate and monitor the airspace for drone operation. The blueprint outlines the stages in which the services will be implemented, to support the EU aviation strategy, while creating a regulatory framework for the drones. These sections will be put into effect between 2018 and 2022, and are:
U1 – Foundation services which would cover registration and identification of the drones. In addition, implementing spaces which will be inaccessible to the drones, geofencing, will also take place.
U2 – Initial services for the drone operation, which includes flight planning and approval, tracking and interfacing with air traffic control. This management system will be essential for U-Space to accomplish another one of their goals, which is introducing more drones to businesses.
U3 – Advanced services designed to support more complex operations in dense areas. This would include assistance for conflict detection and automated detect and avoid.
U4 – This final stage would include full services such as high levels of automation, connectivity and digitalization.
The benefits of the U-Space project, which is designed to increase the safety of European airspace for drones and their operators, would include:
- Fair, flexible and open access to airspace, which will allow for the expansion of the drone market.
- Noise and visual pollution can be monitored and limited, as well as offering new services to citizens.
- Regulatory authorities would be able to maintain control over the airspace, and ensure that the privacy, safety and security of citizens, and drone users, is maintained. Registration and identification of drones will be enforced.
- The project will also facilitate the development of new models, opening up the use of drones for business purposes. This will help to increase the growth of the business sector, and support the movement towards automation and digitalization.
Switzerland has recently begun implementing their U-Space strategies, via a joint effort with Skyguide, a Swiss air traffic control operator, and Airmap, the organization responsible for management platforms for drones. After the first phase (U1) has been implemented, there is the expectation that more drones will enter the Swiss airspace and market. The system is currently being used for ‘automated flight authorization and cataloging for drones,’ until further expansion can take place. The project will continue to grow, and Switzerland deserves congratulations for being one of the first countries to take the initiative to make their airspace safer for all.