Civil drones: long considered a 'new phenomenon in the sky', this technology has become an important part of various areas of our everyday life including inspection work, cartography, weather data generation or transport. Civilian drones are used in a wide variety of places and contexts: transportation of laboratory equipment in cities, rescue flights in mountainous terrain or inspecting infrastructure in agglomerations. Drones can also be used to provide humanitarian aid in disaster areas and to a certain extent civilian drones have helped to bring digital technology to more traditional branches such as agriculture.
Background: What is the idea?
Around the globe, and in Switzerland in particular, this has led to the development of a fertile drone ecosystem which draws on the knowledge of both renowned Swiss universities and promising start-ups. These technologies are expected to spawn numerous new business areas and permanently transforming existing ones. Drone operations are also likely to become increasingly complex and will, for example, be increasingly conducted beyond visual line of sight flights and flights in urban areas.
This in turn will open up new applications such as smart mobility solutions in cities.
Such developments force us to address the issue of safe and efficient integration of drones into the airspace and in particular to find ways to protect privacy and the environment. U-space is considered to be the main means of achieving this.
U-Space in brief
The term U-space, refers to a collection of digitalised and automated functions and processes aimed at providing safe, efficient and fair access to airspace for the growing number of civilian drone operations. U-space provides a framework to facilitate the implementation of all types of operation in all classes of airspace and all types of environment, while ensuring an orderly coexistence with manned aviation and air traffic control. U-space airspace is a framework that facilitates the implementation of any type of operation in any class of airspace and any environment, while ensuring orderly coexistence with manned aviation and air traffic control. Switzerland does not yet have an operational U-space airspace. The FOCA is currently working to establish such airspaces, especially in areas where large numbers of simultaneously operated drones
Where do we stand today?
In April 2021, the EU published a comprehensive regulatory package aimed at providing a framework for the establishment and deployment of U-space in Europe. In addition to describing the rules to be followed in U-space airspace, the regulatory package indicates the services that pilots must use in order to operate their drones safely in U-space airspace.
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/664 of 22 April 2021 on a regulatory framework for the U-space (hereinafter: U-space Regulation).
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/665 of 22 April 2021 amending Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373 as regards requirements for providers of air traffic management/air navigation services and other air traffic management network functions in the U-space airspace designated in controlled airspace.
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/666 of 22 April 2021 amending Regulation (EU) No 923/2012 as regards requirements for manned aviation operating in U-space airspace.
Switzerland was able to actively contribute to the drafting of the EU U-space Regulation and influence developments accordingly. The working group was coordinated by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
The FOCA is committed to advancing the research, development and implementation of U-space technologies and services in Switzerland. To this end, the FOCA developed its own U-space concept (ConOps) where. The current version of the ConOps concept is currently being revised.
The FOCA has also entered into an official partnership agreement with the US Federal Aviation Admininstration (FAA) for the harmonisation of domestic and international safety standards.
In December 2018, the FOCA partnered with Swiss air navigation service provider Skyguide to launch an initiative dubbed SUSI (Swiss U-space Implementation). The aim of this public-private partnership is to develop, test and introduce U-space technologies and services. The FOCA manages the SUSI Secretariat. Over the past two and a half years, various Swiss and international companies have signed cooperation agreements to formalise their partnership in SUSI. It is the members of the SUSI partnership who are actively engaged in bringing the U-space airspace concept to fruition in Switzerland and who will ultimately provide the services relating to U-space airspace.
|What U-Space services are available?|
In a U-space, there are no limitations placed on the various U-space service providers: An open, free and fair market is perceived as the best possible solution for U-space service providers and drone operators. In its U-space concept (ConOps), the FOCA has described all of the services that may be provided within the U-space architecture. Some of these services have already been introduced, others are about to be launched and still others have not yet been fully developed.
The U-space Regulation declares the following U-space services in U-space airspace as mandatory:
Before drone pilots can use a U-space service, they must first register. The registration of drones is an important milestone for the integration of drones in airspace: it serves as a central information basis, encourages harmonisation and contributes to the social acceptance of drones. Starting in August 2021, all Swiss drone pilots will be able to register on the official platform UAS.gate. Registration is currently voluntary and free of charge in Switzerland until further notice.
The network identification service enables remote identification of drones throughout the entire duration of their flight. With this service, authorised users (whether it be authorities, aerodrome managers or air traffic services) can receive messages in real time containing the following information: UAS operator number (the number given to all drone operators after registration), position of the remote pilot and flight details (speed, altitude or route). The use of the remote identification service is currently voluntary and free of charge in Switzerland until further notice.
Visit the SUSI website for further information.
Geo-awareness is a feature that provides pilots with information about applicable operating conditions as well as both permanent (static) and temporary (dynamic) area restrictions within U-space airspace.
More information on flight restrictions in Switzerland.
This service informs drone operators of other air traffic (manned and unmanned) that may be near or on the drone's intended flight path.
The UAS flight authorization service is a service that minimises the risk of collision between multiple drones. Through this service, UAS pilots are given permission to fly their planned route, specifying the applicable conditions for that flight. If another operation is also planned at the same time in the same area, operators are asked to adjust their flight plan accordingly. Pilots flying their drone in the same area at the same time will be notified. This service does not replace authorisations that must be granted by competent authorities such as national and local authorities or by Skyguide in controlled airspace.
The U-space Regulation declares that the following U-space services as optional but possibly useful as a means of reducing potential drone flight risk:
The weather information service provides UAS pilots with weather data before or during flight.
A conformance monitoring service enables UAS operators to verify whether they comply with the requirements that are included in the U-space regulation. To this end, this service alert the operators if this is not the case. If operators violate the flight authorization that has been issued before, involved actors shall be alerted (other UAS operators operating in the cicinity of the UAS concerned, other U-space service providers, relevant air traffic service units).
In addition to the U-space services laid down in the U-space Regulation, other tools are being developed for the digitalised airspace. One example is LAANC, which stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. LAANC is a digital system used to authorise flights within the 5km perimeter of airports. With this service, UAS pilots can announce their intention to operate their drone within this perimeter. The system analyses the planned flight path and issues a permit if all safety requirements are met. This service is available via the Skyguide Special Flight Office (SFO) tool.
FOCA's Report Remote ID Demonstration 16.9.2019 (PDF, 6 MB, 27.09.2019)This report documents the findings that resulted from the demonstration of the U-Space remote identification service.
Master Agreement, SUSI-NetRID (PDF, 207 kB, 08.12.2020)All companies involved in the development and provision of RID have formalised their efforts under the master agreement.
Swiss U-Space concept of operations (ConOps) (PDF, 849 kB, 07.04.2020)U-Space concept: A systematic description of the roles, services, and overarching architecture of U-Space.
Declaration of Intent: FOCA and FAA (EN) (PDF, 459 kB, 09.02.2021)This agreement provided the framework for the formalisation of intensified cooperation between the FOCA and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in relation to U-Space.
Last modification 15.11.2022