As important as UAS are today, their integration into the Airspace is still underway, with the overall goal of full integration by 2030. As a result, a number of initiatives are in place at EDA, under the Single European Sky Unit, that range from expert group management to budget allocation and project launches. These aim at ensuring that the goals set below are accomplished.
Ensuring its mandate, emanated by Ministerial agreement, to reinforce EDA’s position as the preferred cooperation and management structure at EU level (here), the European Defence Agency’s work in the field UAS aims at:
- Promoting the Integration of military UAS in non-segregated airspace in the context of the Single European Sky (for more information, please consult the page on SES)
- Promoting synergies among Member States operating large military RPAS
- Support to the development of a European medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)
- Support the development of defence capabilities and military cooperation and harmonisation in the use of UAS among Member States
- Stimulate Research and Technology (R&T) and strengthening the European defence industry in UAS and Counter-UAS technology, processes and procedures
- Act as an interface between the military and other stakeholders, e.g., EASA, EUROCONTROL, SESAR Joint Undertaking
EDA has a number of activities related to UAS that span across its structure, in all directorates (EDA structure).
UAS Air Traffic Integration (ATI)
In the field UAS integration in non-segregated airspace, EDA’s activities are organized alongside three main axes of activities:
- Coordination activities aiming to ensure an efficient cooperation with the European Commission, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU)
- Regulatory and harmonization activities, involving Military Air Worthiness Authorities Forum (MAWA) and the EDA Single European Sky Military Aviation Board (ESMAB), through respective UAS Airworthiness Regulatory Framework (ARF) working group and SEC UAS Integration (SES Expert Community on UAS Integration) aiming to contribute to fill the gaps regarding the regulation for Large/Certified RPAS
- The UAS ATI R&D projects and the Industry Exchange Platform aiming to develop the key technical enablers for UAS ATI
These activities are carried out by 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 – among other goals - to support the development of a European MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) RPAS in direct support to OCCAR, by influencing the development of the related regulatory framework .
COORDINATION ACTIVITIES WITH OTHER BODIES
These activities aim at ensuring 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 UAS, 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.
In the framework of the Coordination Mechanism, and more broadly in the framework of Single European Sky, EDA and SJU staff have established close coordination. In the area of RPAS ATI, it is mainly reflected in the following activities: support to the definition of the SESAR programmes; liaison, support and expert provision to specific R&D projects in UAS ATI; support to project management (technical specifications, proposal and deliverables evaluation).
Guidelines for MALE-type Accommodation in General Airspace Classes A-C – project page
The development of the 2018 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 provide guidance to: a) reduce the time required to plan MALE RPAS operations; b) enhance civil-military coordination with standard procedures; c) harmonise procedures for cross-border operations; d) decrease the segregated airspace volume by enabling en-route flight in non-segregated airspace; e) maintain overall safety and ATM performance while increasing the number of UAS operations and sharing military expertise and best practices with EASA. The guidelines gather 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.
Drone Strategy 2.0 issued by the European Commission outlines the EU's approach to drones and aims to develop a competitive and sustainable drone industry in Europe. Regarding military and defence aspects, the document highlights the need to ensure that the EU's drone technology can meet military requirements, as well as leverage the military experience in this field to support the development of a European drone capability. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of coordinating and sharing information among Member States to enhance security and defence capabilities and encourages the establishment of European drone operations centres to improve situational awareness and responsiveness. Given the military dimension in DS 2.0 and the need to translate the flagship actions into lines of action, EDA’s collaboration with the European Commission and other stakeholders (e.g., EASA, SESAR Joint Undertaking, DG DEFIS, EUROCONTROL) in the DS 2.0 is seen as relevant and necessary.
UAS Integration R&D – PROJECTS AND TECHNICAL ENABLERS
There are different activities in the field of UAS ATI Research and Development currently ongoing at EDA, with the goal to develop cutting-edge technologies for future European RPAS.
With the inevitable increase in drones operating at low altitude in the coming years, early engagement of the Military with all airspace users and Authorities involved is paramount to avoid negative implications on Safety, Security, and Defence. Indeed, this low-level airspace is regularly used by Military aircraft for operations and training and therefore U-Space airspace requirements shall guarantee that those military activities will be ensured in a safe and secure manner. In considering the implementation of the U-Space, the key objectives for the Military are:
- To maintain the level of Safety for Military (low-level) operations, to preserve operational effectiveness and to protect Search and Rescue operations.
- To guarantee the Security of (Military) infrastructures, assets and operations.
- To quantify the financial impacts of U-Space implementation on the Military and to secure the necessary funding to maintain safety, guarantee security and ensure interoperability.
Risk Assessment MIL-UAS-SPECIFIC: Air and Ground Risk Assessment Methodology for Non-certified Military UAS – Project page
Launched in 2021, this project aims to facilitate non-certified UAS operations in the specific category of operations (called MIL-UAS-SPECIFIC) and to support EDA pMS in Risk Assessment methodology (identification, mitigation, and tools) when no national methodology exists.
Remote Pilot Station (RPS) Standardisation – Project page
Building on the initial RPS project (link to Remote Pilot Station (RPS) Standardisation), and with the clear objective of supporting the Standardisation II of Remote Pilot Stations to be used in EASA's certified operations category, this project launched in 2020 and has delivered the Minimum Operational Requirement Standards for UAS/RPAS remote pilot stations standardization under EUROCAE WG-105. This project is expected to conclude in 2024 with the delivery of a Standard for RPS. Detailed information here.
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.
Military Test Centre Network of Excellence
Drones have a close connection with the Test Centres Network of Excellence. This network meets 3 times a year and connects the Defence governmental Test Centres all across Europe. In this network, it is possible to be in contact with Test Centres located in different geographies, weather conditions, and airspace characteristics, which could support some specific testing needs. Furthermore, the network aims to identify potential cooperation areas regarding harmonising testing requirements and procedures. For more information, please check the Defence Test and Evaluation Base.
The Agency’s general approach is to use civilian standards even for defence needs whenever and wherever possible. However, that rule has its limits because available standards, by far, do not always fit military needs and requirements. That’s where EDA comes in to see what can be done to develop missing standards. For instance, EDSTAR (the European Defence Standards Reference system) is managed by EDA to facilitate work in the area of defence standardisation.
THE UAS REGULATORY FRAMEWORK – WORKING GROUPS
SEC (SES Expert Community) UAS Integration Working Group
The SEC UAS Integration Working Group 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 UAS activities in Europe (European Commission, SJU, EUROCONTROL, EASA, EUROCAE, JARUS, etc.). Reciprocally, the experts from the SEC UAS ATI are invited to comment on the documents produced by those external bodies. It is the case, e.g., of the EASA RMT02.30 or the SESAR PJ’s dealing with UAS or U-Space.
UAS Airworthiness Regulatory Framework (ARF) Working Group
Within Europe, military UAS 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, the ways to streamline the certification process for military UAS 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.
The UAS ARF 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, to facilitate the integration of military UAS into the future European Aviation System.
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.
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 UAS domain and included countries who operated MALE UAS or consider having the capability in the near future.
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 UAS;
- 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 who all share an interest in EDA’s MALE RPAS Training Technology Demonstrator (RTTD). The RTTD project deployed low cost, generic MALE RPAS simulators in 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 facilitate the ongoing exercise programme to be jointly with the Member States, EDA and the European Air Group (EAG) – more info here.
UAS 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 UAS 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.
A considerable portion of the cost of building a complex intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance UAS 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 UAS domain are aiming at ensuring that this level of dependence is under control – noteworthy the collaboration to the implementation of the Drone Strategy 2.0, as mentioned above in Drone Strategy 2.0.