SESAR U-space demonstrations supporting safe drone traffic integration in the Gulf of Finland

The SESAR Joint Undertaking GOF U-space project in Estonia and Finland is demonstrating that Europe is progressing with its plan for the so-called U-space to ensure safe and secure drone traffic management.

The project aims at accelerating manned and unmanned mobility in the lower airspace, taking into account the rapid growth in the use of drones while showcasing the progress towards reaching the objective of a unified European airspace.

With a co-financing from the SESAR Joint Undertaking within the framework of the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility programme, GOF U-space demonstrates and qualifies seven drone use cases, while addressing questions of safety, security, environment, as well as privacy and public perception.

The use cases include international parcel delivery (up to 5kg per flight) between Helsinki and Tallinn, urban drone fleet operations in Helsinki with police intervention, urban drone fleet operations in Tallinn in controlled airspace, long range inspections flights in forestry and utility inspection in Finland, and maritime traffic surveillance combined with search-and-rescue over the Gulf of Finland.

The consortium is also working on demonstrating the use of UTM (Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management) for controlling drone taxi traffic by showing a live Drone Taxi flight from Helsinki-Vantaa airport to downtown Helsinki.

The U-space demonstrations show the fitness for purpose of combining commercial off the shelf (COTS) UTM components to demonstrate all phases of drone operations with a focus on pre-flight and flight execution. The U-space architecture is based on a federation of U-space service provider microservices to collectively manage all drone traffic in the same geographical region.

U-space service providers will exchange information and coordinate themselves using new interoperable standards to be developed for the demonstration, allowing for automated drone traffic management and improved situational awareness among all U-space stakeholders.

The consortium includes U-space infrastructure members ANS Finland, Estonian ANS, AirMap, Altitude Angel, Fleetonomy, Frequentis, Robots Expert, and Unifly. The Finnish communication authority Ficora, drone manufacturers Avartek, Threod Systems, VideoDrone, as well as drone operators BVdrone, CAFA Tech, Hepta Airborne, Helsinki Police Department, Estonian Police and Border Guard, Finnish Air Rescue Society, and drone taxi company Volocopter are also part of the consortium. While the Finnish police force is currently the largest drone operator in Finland, Estonian police and border guard are actively pursuing drone applications, too.

GOF is one of six SESAR U-space demonstrations, which over the course of the next 18 months will be carried out in rural locations and European cities including Belgium, Estonia, Finland France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain with the objective to showcase the readiness of U-space services to manage a broad range of drone operations and related services and their interaction with manned aviation.