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Cross-border test flight backs EDA work on RPAS air traffic integration

EDA’s groundwork to help Member States move towards the integration of MALE-type Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) in civil air traffic in non-segregated airspace received another significant boost on 13 December 2021 when a live MALE-type RPAS cross-border flight was carried out by the French Air Force from Cognac airbase to Spain and back to France. While multiple inland flights had already been performed in the past by the French Air Force, it was the first time that such a MALE-type RPAS flight crossed European borders in non-segregated airspace class A-C.

During this flight - depicted on the chart below - several handovers were carried out between civilian and military air traffic control centers in Bordeaux, Madrid, Barcelona, and Marseille. The cruise was carried out in upper airspace, up to FL 230, according to one “circular” flight plan. The RPAS had no specific onboard equipment such as a detect and avoid system. The flight was successful as it demonstrated the ability of MALE-type RPAS to perform seamless changes from their initial routing and altitude, as requested by the Air Traffic Control. It also demonstrated the benefit of a robust safety analysis, harmonized procedures and a common Concept of Operations “ConOps” for cross-border operations.

Based on the materials gathered during this flight and on the safety analysis performed by the initial Accommodation Study (2017-2019 timeframe) carried-out by EDA, a validation report will be published early 2022, together with the guidelines on how to “accommodate” MALE-type RPAS in General Air Traffic (GAT)  in non-segregated airspace class A-C.