Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) have demonstrated their importance in recent military operations, particularly for surveillance and information gathering. RPAS can also offer a wide range of civil applications such as infrastructure surveillance, firefighting, disaster or environmental monitoring, as well as border control and management. RPAS have been earmarked as one of four capability development priorities by the December 2013 European Council.
The European Defence Agency’s work in the field RPAS aims at covering several objectives, as described below:
- Integration of military RPAS in non-segregated airspace in the context of the Single European Sky (for more information, please consult the page on SES)
- Development of synergies among Member States operating large military RPAS
- Support to the development of a European medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) RPAS to be operational by 2025
RPAS AIR TRAFFIC INTEGRATION (RPAS ATI)
In the field RPAS integration in non-segregated airspace, EDA’s activities are organized alongside three main axes:
- The coordination activities aiming to ensure an efficient cooperation with the European Commission, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU);
- The Regulatory activities, closely linked to the Military Air Worthiness Authorities Forum (MAWA) and to the EDA Single European Sky Military Aviation Board (ESMAB), through its SEC RPAS ATI (SES Expert Community on RPAS ATI), aiming to contribute to fil the gaps regarding the regulation for Large/Certified RPAS;
- The RPAS ATI R&D projects and the Industry Exchange Platform aiming to develop the key technical enablers for RPAS Air Traffic Integration.
All these activities are carried-out within the Single European Sky Unit, in close coordination and collaboration with other EDA groups and external organisations. Following the European Council held 19/20 December 2013, these activities aim to support the development of a European MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) RPAS in the 2020-2025 timeframe, by influencing the development of the related regulatory framework and by supporting the development of the key technical enablers. This is also aligned with the timeline set forth in the SESAR ATM Master Plan.
The coordination activities aim at ensuring the coordination and an efficient cooperation with the European Commission (DG Move), EASA and SESAR JU.
The Coordination Mechanism is a technical agreement between the Commission, EASA, SJU and EDA to promote an effective civil-military coordination and cooperation to progress smoothly in the integration of drones, notably, the certified operations category, into non-segregated airspace. Report on the progress of the coordination mechanism to the senior management level is done on a yearly basis for the necessary steering and monitoring, also with the objective to promote synergies between these bodies and with other European organisations.
Liaison with SESAR Joint Undertaking
In the framework of the Coordination Mechanism, and more broadly in the framework of Single European Sky, EDA and SJU staff have established a close coordination. In the area of RPAS ATI, it is mainly reflected in the following activities: support to the definition of the SESAR 2020 Wave 2 programmes; liaison, support and expertise provision to specific R&D projects from the SESAR 2020 relevant to RPAS ATI; support to project management (technical specifications, proposal and deliverables evaluation).
Guidelines for MALE-type Accommodation
The development of the Guidelines for MALE-type Accommodation was jointly launched by EASA Executive Director and EDA Chief Executive. The task Force set up in this framework and co-chaired by EASA and EDA included experts from the SESAR JU, EUROCONTROL, European military representatives (France, Germany, Italy and Sweden – following a call for interest) and European industry representatives. These Guidelines aim to cover different objectives: reducing the time required to plan MALE RPAS operations; enhancing civil – military coordination with standard procedures; harmonizing procedures for cross border operations; decreasing the segregated airspace volume to the minimum by enabling en-route flight in non-segregated airspace; maintaining overall safety and ATM performance while increasing RPAS operations and sharing military expertise and best practices with EASA. The guidelines are gathering the most relevant elements of the current operations today and the operational limitations that are identified, and propose recommendations relating to operational scenario for the accommodation phase.
THE RPAS REGULATORY FRAMEWORK
The SEC (SES Expert community) RPAS ATI Working Group
The SEC RPAS ATI WG is composed of ATM experts for the EDA Member States: EDA acts as an interface between them and the external stakeholders, that are invited to report to the group their RPAS activities in Europe (European Commission, SJU, EUROCONTROL, EASA, EUROCAE, JARUS, etc.). Reciprocally, the experts from the SEC RPAS ATI are invited to comment the documents produced by those external bodies. It was the case for the ATM Master Plan update campaign, the drones “addendum/Roadmap”, ESA RMT02.30, the SESAR PJ’s 10.05 or CORUS deliverables and the webinars on U-Space.
RPAS Accommodation Study
While the final goal for MALE-type RPAS is the full Integration in the ATM, in the meantime, the Accommodation of RPAS must be facilitated and implemented in a stepped way, as soon as possible and harmonised European–wide. More information on the dedicated RPAS Accommodation Validation webpage.
RPAS Accommodation Validation Study
As a follow-up on the initial Accommodation study, this project aims at performing Flight Test Validation of several RPAS Accommodation scenarios, including those developed in the EDA-EASA guidelines, for MALE-type operations in non-segregated airspace. More information on the dedicated RPAS Accommodation Validation webpage.
Airworthiness Regulatory Framework (ARF)
Within Europe, military RPAS are certified by the national Military Airworthiness Authorities. Building upon the successes of the Military Airworthiness Authorities Forum, established by the EDA in 2008, the Agency is exploring together with national authorities and the ways to streamline the certification process for military RPAS at the European level. Significant time and cost savings, as well as harmonised safety requirements, can be expected from a common approach to airworthiness and achieving certification.
An RPAS Airworthiness Regulatory Framework Working Group was established in EDA in March 2014 with the purpose of developing a harmonised set of airworthiness requirements and common classification and certification processes, in order to ensure that military RPAS can easily integrate into the future European Aviation System. External stakeholders (e.g. EASA, EUROCONTROL) are invited to provide feedback on their Airworthiness Activities for the RPAS/UAS and reciprocally, ARF experts participate to the consultations organised by those bodies.
TSAMA (Total System Approach to Military Aviation) development
The project objective is to increase the effectiveness, responsiveness, cost efficiency and safety of military aviation. This will be done through two “pilot cases” on transport fleet and large/certified military RPAS, by harmonising relevant national military aviation safety requirements in the operational domain through the establishment of a cooperation framework for national Military Air Operators Safety Authorities. Through this objective and in conjunction with the related MAWA – for Airworthiness - and ESMAB – for ATM aspects - work strands, the progressive introduction of a Total System Approach to Military Aviation will be further investigated.
RPAS ATI R&D - TECHNICAL ENABLERS DEVELOPMENT
There are different activities in the field of RPAS ATI Research and Development currently ongoing at EDA, with the goal to develop cutting-edge technologies for future European RPAS.
Industry Exchange Platform
The Industry Exchange Platform on RPAS ATI aims at enabling a structured dialogue and enhanced engagement with European industry, organisations and Member States with a stake in MALE type RPAS integration in European airspace in the 2025-2030 timeframe. The objective of this initiative is to identify the missing key technical enablers for RPAS ATI by 2025, the required R&D and validation activities to ensure their development and potential implementation mechanisms. The meeting is held annually and involves a call for papers for European industry to select the key technical elements to be discussed and to set the overall agenda.
MID air Collision Avoidance System Standardisation Support Phase (MIDCAS SSP)
The aim of the MIDCAS programme was to provide the technical content of a collision avoidance system standard proposal for RPAS and thus to contribute to the RPAS integration in civilian airspace by proposing a baseline of solutions for the “Unmanned Aircraft System Mid-air Collision Avoidance Function” acceptable by manned aviation. The original MIDCAS project started in September 2009 and was completed in 2015. MIDCAS SSP was its continuation with a focus on supporting and progressing standardization, mainly in EUROCAE. MIDCAS SSP has generated substantial progress: the experience and knowledge gained by the people involved in MIDCAS is a unique resource available for continued European efforts in this field.
DeSIRE2: Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe
EDA and the European Space Agency (ESA) established their cooperation in the RPAS sector in 2010 and launched the joint DeSIRE project in 2012, with the aim of to demonstrate the safe integration of RPAS in non-segregated airspace using satellites capabilities for RPAS command and control, air traffic control communications and mission data transfer to ground. A follow-on project with ESA, DeSIRE2, was launched in 2014 and aimed at developing and demonstrating services based on a Remotely Piloted Aircraft flying in Beyond Radio Line of Sight (BRLOS). The project concluded at the beginning of 2019 and its scope was reduced due to the mishap of the RPAS intended to be used for the flight tests. Nevertheless, the project did produce interesting results: its main outcomes are related to the characterization of SatCom channels (Ka and L band) in terms of latency, continuity, integrity and availability. DeSIRE2 is also the basis for an ongoing activity, the CRUISE project funded by ESA to deliver a cybersecurity test range for RPAS.
Remote Pilot Station (RPS) Standardisation
The project’s main objective was to support standardisation of the Remote Pilot Station to be used in EASA's certified operations category, with a focus on certification and Air Traffic Integration requirements. The project concluded at the beginning of 2019 with the delivery of the Safety and Performance Requirements Document for Remote Pilot Stations Supporting IFR Operations in Controlled Airspace to EUROCAE for internal review. The consortium is still active at EUROCAE even after the project’s closure and is leading the production of the main formal standardization document in the working group: the MASPS (Minimum Aviation System Performance Specification) which will be issued for open consultation at EUROCAE.
Enhanced RPAS Automation (ERA)
RPAS automation is a key enabler for the integration of RPAS in non-segregated airspace, particularly to ensure the operation safety levels in degraded or emergency modes. Automation in RPAS take-off, landing, and taxi phases will be required for airport operation, both civil and military. The main objectives of ERA are to establish the technological baseline for automatic take-off and landing, autotaxi, nominal/degraded mode automation functions and emergency recovery. This will be done alongside support to the regulation and standardisation of these capabilities, by providing safety assessments, procedures, simulation and flight demonstrations.
Safe Autonomous Flight Termination (SAFE-Term)
The Safe Autonomous Flight Termination project will assess, develop and validate a proof of concept of autonomous functionality to ensure a predictable yet adaptative Remotely Piloted Aircraft behaviour in case of emergency involving multiple failures, including C2 datalink loss leading to a Flight Termination. The project will also assess the regulatory and certification issues as well as the standardisation needs and it will support the standardisation activities in this area in a relevant standardisation body. This R&D project directly stems from the consultation within the Industry Exchange Platform on RPAS ATI.
In addition to the three main workstrands related to RPAS ATI (coordination, regulatory and R&D), EDA also liaises with other organisations concerning other activities. This includes: support to OCCAR-EA with regards to the European MALE RPAS ATI Expert Group; liaison with EUROCAE, in particular on Working Group 105 which is dedicated to RPAS technology standardization; observer’s role and exchange of expertise within JARUS (Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems), an expert group from the National Aviation Authorities and regional aviation safety organizations.
EUROPEAN MILITARY COOPERATION
In 2013, EDA formed the “European MALE RPAS User Community”. This forum was established to examine options for pooling and sharing in the MALE RPAS domain, but included countries who currently operated MALE RPAS or who consider getting the capability within a few years.
The Community’s objectives are to:
- Exchange information and facilitate cooperation among Member States who operate such systems in order to streamline resources;
- Exchange operational experience and best practices of operating MALE RPAS;
- Identify cooperation opportunities in the following enablers: training, logistics, maintenance of similar assets.
Originally, seven Member States (France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland) were involved in this activity; however, in 2017/18, the group is likely to grow to include Belgium, the UK and possibly Switzerland who all share an interest in EDA’s MALE RPAS Training Technology Demonstrator (RTTD) project. The RTTD project seeks to deploy low cost, generic MALE RPAS simulators in each of the Member States RPAS Schools as a means to develop tactics, harmonise procedures, approaches to training and to further deepen the links between the different national user communities. The simulators have been deployed at nine sites across Europe from November 2017 and will facilitate an ongoing exercise programme to be jointly organised with the Member States, EDA and the European Air Group (EAG).
RPAS offer a wide range of civil and military applications. The market ranges from small tactical mini and micro aircraft to large sophisticated systems. Investment in RPAS at the higher end has the additional benefit of helping to sustain European aeronautic competences in the design and engineering necessary for future manned fixed wing aircraft.
Over half the cost of building a complex intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RPAS is related to sensing technologies and data exploitation capabilities; excellence in these areas will be necessary for future industrial competitiveness in the global marketplace. At present there is the risk that Europe could become dependent on third country suppliers for such technologies. All EDA’s current activities in the RPAS domain are aiming at ensuring that this level of dependence is under control.