European Defense Agency, EDA has just launched a new study to assess the current framework and future prospects of Europe’s so-called ‘U-Space’, which is the airspace for large numbers of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS, or drones), with a view to facilitating a smooth and effective coexistence of civil and military operators into it. The U-Space notion was introduced by the European Commission in its 2016 blueprint for fostering a market for safe, secure and efficient drone operations in Europe. It refers to the low-level airspace and covers the ecosystem of services and specific procedures necessary for reliable and safe drone operations.
With the expected sharp increase in the numbers of drones operating at low altitude in the coming years, early engagement between the military and civil airspace users as well as the relevant control authorities 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.
However, military aircraft, different in nature and mission, cannot be expected to be compliant with all normal U-Space requirements applicable to civil aircraft. Hence the need to thoroughly analyse and assess the U-Space ‘ecosystem’ (services, procedures, regulations, etc.) with a view to ensuring that the views of the Armed Forces are duly taken into account during the implementation of the U-space, and their military activities can be seamlessly integrated into it.
In this respect, the military’s main interests 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
- and to quantify the financial impact of U-Space implementation on the military and to secure the necessary funding to maintain safety, guarantee security and ensure interoperability.
The overall objective of the study, which is expected to run throughout 2021, is to contribute to an efficient civil-military collaboration in the U-Space.