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 electricity production. Furthermore, civilian drones are used in a wide variety of contexts including both cities and mountainous or rural areas. In the context of humanitarian missions, they can save lives; they can also revolutionise traditional industries such as agriculture through the application of pesticides or other substances.
Background: What is the concept?
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. In view of technological advances and society’s need for smarter mobility solutions and more sustainable and efficient processes, these technologies are expected to evolve rapidly in the future, spawning 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.
It is precisely these types of operations that force us to address the issue of safe and efficient integration of drones into the airspace.
U-Space in brief
The term U-Space (referred to as “unmanned aircraft system traffic management [UTM] in the US), 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.
Where do we stand today?
At European Union level, the U-Space project has since the end of 2018 been driven forward by a working group in which Switzerland (as well as a number of EU Member States) is also actively participating, contributing its interests and influencing developments accordingly. The working group is coordinated by the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA.
In mid-June 2020, the EASA published the first draft of the U-Space Regulation. The document proposes a regulatory framework to implement operational, technical and commercial developments of the project and describes how fair access to airspace will be provided to all airspace users. One central aspect is that the market regulates the provision of U-Space services on the basis of the requirements of all stakeholders. According to the European Commission, the regulation will enter into force in June 2022.
In parallel with developments at international level, the FOCA is endeavouring to drive forward the research, development and implementation of appropriate technologies and services in a Swiss context. Using the UTM operating concept of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European UTM system CORUS as a basis, the FOCA has drawn up a concept (ConOps) which describes in detail the roles, services and higher-level architecture of U-Space. The FOCA has also officially committed to and formalised an in-depth exchange with the FAA within the framework of a partnership agreement.
In December 2018, the FOCA launched a private-public partnership with skyguide, the Swiss air navigation service provider, to develop, test and implement U-Space technologies and services. The secretariat is provided by the FOCA. Various Swiss and international companies have now signed the cooperation agreement to formalise their partnership, which is now referred to by the acronym SUSI.
|What U-Space services are available?|
In U-Space, all drone operators can choose the services that best suit their needs, the type of flight planned and its environment. The FOCA has listed and described in detail all the services within the U-Space architecture in its U-Space concept (ConOps). Some of them have already been implemented, while others are about to be implemented or are in progress.
The following list provides an overview of those services which have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented within the framework of the SUSI:
The registration of drones is an important milestone for the integration of drones into the airspace: It not only serves as a central information point and promotes harmonization; it is also designed to contribute to the social acceptance of drones. From February 2021, all drone operators will be able to register on the UAS.gate registration platform on a voluntary basis.
According to the U-Space Opinion (Art. 10), this service must ensure the remote identification of the operator throughout the flight and provide a collection of aggregated data for end users (citizens, public authorities). This service provides the registration number of the drone operator as well as further details about the flight (speed, height, course). The regulation is not yet in force in Switzerland. However, in the context of SUSI, companies will soon make this service available on a voluntary basis. The documents below can be used to review the findings which were the result of the demonstration of this U-Space service on 16 September 2019.
Visit the SUSI website for further information.
Geo-awareness describes a feature that warns operators when they are flying their drone within a sensitive area. The delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/945 of the new EU drone regulation requires certain drone classes (C1, C2, C3, C5, C6) to be equipped with this technology. The FOCA already publishes a drone map which shows all national area restrictions, not least to raise awareness among operators.
LAANC stands for low-altitude authorisation and notification capability, and denotes a digital system for authorising operations within the 5 km perimeter of airports under skyguide's responsibility. Operators can use this service to systematically announce their planned operations within airport perimeters. The system analyses the requested drone flight and, if it meets the necessary safety requirements, issues an appropriate permit.
Strategic coordination refers to a service that minimises the risk of collision between multiple drones. Drone operators can use this service to submit a flight plan. If another operation is also planned in the same area at the same time, operators must change their flight plan accordingly. Operators flying their drone in the same area at the same time are also notified if a drone flies within their planned flight path. This service is currently under development.
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, 13.04.2021)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 13.04.2021