Italy’s ENAV to lead new drone manager business D-Flight

ENAV has launched its D-Flight U-space platform to provide unmanned traffic management (UTM) services for drones together with Leonardo, Telespazio and IDS-Ingegneria Dei Sistemi.

Following a share capital increase amounting to €6.6 million, ENAV will hold 60 per cent of D-Flight’s capital with the remaining held by a grouping formed by Leonardo, Telespazio and IDS.

As well as coordinating the industry team, Leonardo will also be the system integrator responsible for system design. In addition, the business will develop most of the system’s software services, ensuring adequate levels of security according to a ‘security by design’ approach.

The partner was selected in May 2018, following a public tender which resulted from an agreement between ENAC, as regulating authority, and ENAV itself, as national air navigation service provider.

Under the agreement, ENAV undertook to develop and implement a specific air traffic control system for UAVs and to define procedures for platform services that would enable the safe handling of unmanned aircraft by integrating multiple, complex technologies.

“To achieve these goals, and in compliance with its mission to safely manage air traffic, ENAV’s aim is to bring together traditional air traffic with the specific needs of a new type of air traffic, allowing the use of drones for a growing number of services, while guaranteeing maximum safety standards at the same time,” said the provider.

The demand of services delivered by drones is growing exponentially and has huge potential of creating social, economic and environmental benefits. For this reason, the European Union has launched an ambitious plan to facilitate the consolidation of this new market, mainly through the development of the U-space throughout Europe, which will enable complex tasks to be performed by highly automated drones in all kinds of operational environments, including urban areas.

D-Flight is the Italian industry’s response to the challenge laid down by the EU. The U-space platform developed by D-Flight will allow the integration of several technologies for the safe handling of registered unmanned aircraft – certified, authenticated and identified – across civil airspace, as well as for monitoring them before and during the flight, offering support in planning their missions, managing emergencies, and recording flight data.

Delivering U-space services is the basic prerequisite to guarantee the drones’ safe flight beyond visual line of sight and represents a milestone for the opening of new markets based on their use. In fact, this sector is forecast to grow exponentially in the next few years; it is estimated that 7 million recreational use drones and 400,000 drones employed for commercial use will be flying in Europe by 2050.

D-Flight will deploy its U-space services progressively, according to a technological roadmap that will anticipate the European programme and the ongoing regulatory process recently advocated by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Certain basic services are already available on the website www.d-flight.it, including the registration of professional drones and “geo-awareness” services; the latter enable users to understand in an easy, intuitive way whether flying is allowed over a particular area of Italy and which flight conditions are applied in compliance with the regulations in force.

By the end of 2019, in view of the publication of the new EASA regulations, registration will be possible for all drones operators, whether for recreational or professional use.

In addition, an app for mobile devices will be launched to provide services for electronic identification, flight intention validation and support to the authorization process, where required by the regulations in force.

In order to provide for all operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS), D-Flight will develop solutions for real-time drone tracking, along the lines of surveillance models similar to those currently applied in traditional air traffic control. By 2021, a wide range of BVLOS operations on the national area are expected to be performed on a routine basis.