EDA Funding Civil UAV Integration Efforts
Joint EDA/ESA contracts for research into UAV/satellite combinations. (Feb 8/10)
‘Swarming’ algorithms currently under development are trying to address the critical issue of ‘deconfliction’. Meanwhile, flying restrictions aimed at avoiding aerial collisions have put a serious crimp in the tactical usefulness of UAVs at the battalion level and below.
Deconfliction issues have also prevented civil UAV markets from reaching anything close to their full potential for border patrol, land surveying, etc. The task is not impossible – for instance, the Hermes 450, which is the basis of Britain’s Watchkeeper Mk450 system, is now civil certified in Israel. Which is why a May 2007 EUR 500,000 (then about $672,000) European Defence Agency initiative could be significant… and now, a EUR 50 million MIDCAS contract involving an array of European firms has been signed at the 2009 Paris Air Show.
- The EDA’s Goals
- Air for All
- Contracts and Events [updated]
The EDA’s Goals
From the EDA:
“The main target of the joint agenda is to address the challenge of enabling UAVs to operate alongside conventional air traffic. This is the key to expanding the use of UAVs beyond the purely military into the security and ultimately commercial domains and to creating the scale of demand around which European industry can unite. Starting with an EDA-funded roadmap study, the proposed approach aims at progression from the current state of affairs, in which military UAVs can fly in segregated airspace, to a situation in which civilian and government-operated UAVs could operate alongside other manned aircraft in integrated airspace by 2012. This will require innovative technology development and system demonstrations for UAVs to be considered fully airworthy and for the right regulatory framework to be in place for this integration… It has the potential… to move Europe quickly to a leadership position in a field which is of prime importance for European armed forces and the European aerospace industry alike.”
This initiative may well turn out to require more funding than currently allocated. If it succeeds, however, it could live up to the EDA’s boast.
Air For All
The result of this effort has been the creation of the Air4All consortium, which aims to develop a common strategy for the seamless integration of unmanned systems within General Air Traffic.
In late 2007-early 2008, the consortium received an order for a detailed action plan for how Unmanned Vehicles (UAVs) are to be able to fly in civil airspace by 2015 at the latest. The plan has 9 modules, and the initial work of the consortium is focused around the production of this roadmap by July 2008. The roadmap will include an implementation plan that includes both technological and regulatory elements, and cost estimates for reaching the 2015 objective.
The participants expect that this will lead to a set of coherent projects addressing the commercial as well as the security and defence uses of UAS. The Air4All consortium comprises:
- Alenia Aeronautica (Italy)
- BAE Systems (UK, Sweden)
- Dassault Aviation (France)
- Diehl BGT Defence (Germany)
- EADS CASA (Spain)
- EADS Defence & Security Germany
- Selex Galileo (Italy)
- QinetiQ (UK)
- Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (Germany)
- SAAB AB (Sweden)
- Sagem Defence Systems (France)
- Thales Aerospace (France, UK)
The follow-on MIDCAS contract did not include the UK, though a number of the firms involved have substantial UK operations (Selex, Thales). Other firms notable by their absence from the MIDCAS contract include BAE Systems and also Dassault Aviation, though Dassault’s stake in Thales could arguably make its specific participation redundant.
Contracts and Events
Feb 8/10: The European Defence Agency and European space Agency award a pair of EUR 400,000 contracts to 2 firms, in order to perform studies on “Satellite Services for the integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into European Airspace.” The EDA awarded its contract to EADS, which will draw on its EADS Astrium Services and EADS Defence & Security – Military Air Systems unit in France. In parallel, the ESA signed a second contract with INDRA Espacio of Spain.
The studies will explore the feasibility of a demonstration mission in 2010-2011, to show that UAS can be integrated into non-segregated airspace using satellite communications and satellite navigation for Command and Control, Sense and Avoid, and Air Traffic Control. It would also demonstrate the added value of satellite communications for high data rate payload links. Other areas of study will include the viability of UAS supported by space systems in providing future public services, the investments necessary in the future and the next steps required in technical and regulatory terms. All of which is expected to become part of the EU’s roadmap for civilian, security and military services development. EDA release | EADS release.
June 17/09: The European Defence Agency announces that Sweden’s Saab AB will lead the MID-air Collision Avoidance System (MIDCAS) project, which will also include firms from France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The effort is an EDA Ad Hoc Category B project, with a value of about EUR 50 million (about $69.2 million equivalent) and a duration of 48 months.
Their aim is a Sense & Avoid (S&A) system for UAVs, and work will be conducted in close co-operation with European regulatory organizations like EUROCONTROL, EUROCAE (European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment) and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). Transatlantic coordination will be pursued with organizations such as the Radio Technical Commision for Aeronautics (RTCA) and the USA’s Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).
The project will proceed by developing of a safety case, which will be supported by a large number of simulations using Alenia’s Sky-Y medium UAV. Data from performed demonstrations and flight tests will be correlated with those simulations, and the intention is to conclude the project by actually flying a UAV in non-segregated civil air space. The process of approval for that flight by European regulators, and by a national Civil Aviation Authority to be determined, will help define the certification process for UAVs more generally.
The Project Arrangement is signed at the Paris Air Show. and a commercial MIDCAS contract was also signed by EDA on behalf of the 5 contributing Member States with the MIDCAS industry consortium:
- Saab AB/ Saab Aerosystems (Sweden. appointed as Coordinator
- Diehl BGT Defence GmbH & Co. KG (Germany)
- Deutsche Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft (Germany)
- EADS Deutschland GmbH (Germany)
- ESG Elektroniksystem-und Logistik GmbH (Germany)
- Finmeccanica’s Alenia Aeronautica S.p.A (Italy)
- Finmeccanica’s Galileo Avionica S.p.A (Italy)
- Finmeccanica’s Selex Communications S.p.A (Italy)
- Finmeccanica’s SELEX Sistemi Integrati S.p.A (Italy)
- INDRA SISTEMAS S.A (Spain)
- Italian Aerospace Research Centre CIRA S.c.p.A (Italy)
- Sagem Defense Securite (France)
- THALES Systemes Aeroportes S.A. (France)
Feb 19/08: Saab announces its portion of the Air4All award. The project consists of 9 work packages in total; Saab is participating in 5, and is responsible for the work package that covers the analysis of the present situation to develop a common European regulation for UAVs in civil airspace.
Jan 8/08: A contract worth EUR 500,000 is awarded to the Air4All consortium. EDA release.
Dec 20/07: The EDA announces the outcome of its “Study On Sense & Avoid Technologies For Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [LE-UAVs]“. The complete report has been made available to the designated representatives of the EDA participating Member States. The EDA adds that:
“Sense & Avoid technologies were already key issues for the operation and training of LE UAVs when decision was made on launching the Study, and its importance has significantly grown in view of recent new initiatives. To achieve the insertion of UAVs into general air traffic it was unavoidable to assess the feasibility of S&A systems allowing LE UAVs to avoid mid-air collisions with other airspace users, taking into account technological, regulatory and certification aspects.”
The study was launched in March 2006, and after 16.5 months the project was completed in August 2007; results of the Study were presented to the participating Member States at the Final Presentation on November 13/07 2007. EDA announcement | EDA project overview [PDF]
May 14/07: The EDA issues a background release re: its new initiative.
Additional Readings & Sources
- EDA backgrounder (Dec 20/07) – Summary on Sense Avoid Technologies for LE UAVs [PDF]
- EDA backgrounder (May 14/07) – Background on New EDA Initiative on UAVs
- European Commission – INOUI. INnovative Operational Uas Integration. Similar goals, focused on civil use UAVs. They hope to make a solution part of the 2020 Air Traffic Management system project, especially the SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) program. See also CORDIS fact sheet.
- Flight International (May 18/10) – UAV airspace sharing moves forward with Australia’s SmartSkies project. Independent effort.
- Aviation Week (Dec 22/09) – European Union expects civil unmanned air vehicles to use general aviation equipment. Refers to conclusions from INOUI’s initial study.
- DoD Buzz (Oct 6/09) – FAA Acts or Drones Stop Flying. “Army drones will have to curtail training and operational flights by fiscal 2012 in the United States unless the FAA approves some form of UAS deconfliction, a top Army UAS official says.”
Tag: civiluav, edauav