Background information: Initial accommodation study
In 2017, the request of several Member States for a Safety Case for MALE-type RPAS flights triggered the “Accommodation study” project. The one-year contract was allocated to THALES UK and NLR for the simulation part.
The goal of the 2017 initial study was to deliver an enhanced Aviation Safety Case Assessment Methodology for RPAS by assimilating and consolidating current best practices, testing this methodology through simulation, and developing consolidated generic RPAS accommodation scenarios, to allow all aspects of aviation hazard analysis to be exercised for MALE-type RPAS into European skies alongside manned aviation.
The final report was released in March 2019. It includes a definition of a «State-of-the-Art» accommodation, a safety assessment method, scenarios and corresponding safety assessments.
Launch of the follow-up study: Accommodation validation
A follow-on study to the RPAS accommodation study was envisaged in 2018, to further validate the safety assessment method thanks to flight trials (live trials at the request of Member States). Unfortunately, the call for tenders for this follow-on study received no offer in 2018.
However, given the importance of this topic for EDA participating Member States, France offered a contribution in kind (French Reaper flights in France and Cross-border flights) in order to facilitate the validation of the results of the initial accommodation study as well as the use cases developed in the EDA-EASA guidelines.
The call for tender for additional validation of the scenarios and the corresponding safety case was published on 13 June 2019. The follow-up project called accommodation validation (contractor company DCI) was launched on 29 August 2019 at EDA.
Goal of the study
The follow-up study aims at performing flight test validation of several RPAS accommodation scenarios for MALE-type operations in non-segregated airspace. The scenarios come from the initial accommodation study, the EDA/EASA guidelines or are identified by the contractor in the framework of this study. Each scenario includes a corresponding safety assessment. The focus is set both on the airspace risks and on the ground risks aspects (not considered during the initial accommodation study). To this end, the contractor is able to access and utilise information deriving from specific operational flights of the French Air Force Reapers, which the French Authorities make available for the study.
Stakeholders Consultation Group (SCG)
Within EDA, there are two RPAS expert groups: the ESMAB SEC UAS Integration (EDA SES/SESAR Expert Community) and the European UAS ARF (Airworthiness Regulatory Framework) working groups. In the framework of the accommodation validation study, the contractor sets up a Stakeholder Consultation Group (SCG) and endeavours to include the experts from those two groups and also EUROCONTROL, EASA, SJU, NATO and interested parties like Industry. In the coming months, the contractor will distribute the validation plan and the final report inside this SCG for review. The SCG experts will be invited to the dissemination workshop, where the results from the validation flights will be assessed in view of producing the final report.
The experts from the Stakeholders Consultation Group settled for the initial Accommodation study, are welcome in the SCG for the follow-up study.
The COVID-19 pandemic, having induced severe restrictions on international trade and travel, led to a several months work suspension undertaken by civil and military authorities to plan these MALE-type RPAS demonstration cross border flights.
The Reaper activities in France in 2020
Nevertheless, on May 20, as part of its Single European Sky experiment and for carrying out a training mission in a military area (TSA) located in the Southeast of France, the French Air Force flew a Reaper RPAS, based in the military airbase of Cognac, in GAT in non-segregated airspace.
During three hours, Bordeaux and Marseille ACCs have controlled the Reaper without specific onboard equipment such as a « Detect and avoid » system, between FL 145 and FL 230, and successfully performed handovers between civil units and military units in lower and upper airspace. The Reaper has performances equivalent to those of regional aircraft. The initial feedback of this live trial is promising. The RPAS has demonstrated that it could fly on its planned route but also, evolve like a manned aircraft under this real-life operational conditions, for example when in the tactical phase, the controller has given a new heading instruction without notice to take a direct route.
Prior to conduct this trial in a safe manner, the French National Supervisory Authority (NSA) had validated the safety study.
More information on "EDA work on MALE-type RPAS Air Traffic Integration backed by French test flight".
This trial paves the way for cross-border flights and confirms the risk analysis carried out under the aegis of the EDA, while providing initial feedback on the accommodation of MALE-type RPAS in non-segregated controlled airspace, demonstrating the possibility of flying a MALE-type UASs without specific see-and-avoid equipment in GAT, subject to coordination with air navigation services.
2021: The EDA accommodation validation study is re-launched
As the health crisis had been underway for a while, the military and civil authorities involved in this study decided to resume the planning process for the cross-border mission in GAT, taking advantage of the low density of air traffic and adapting to the constraints imposed by the situation.
The following deliverables are available or will be reviewed soon by the SCG:
For more information, please consult the EDA website or contact the EDA Project Officer UAS Certification and ATM Research Nathalie Hasevoets.