Drone industry must harness European airspace expertise

Safety and conspicuity must be at the heart of moves to address the rapidly increasing use of drones, building on and drawing from Europe’s excellent safety record and ensuring today’s high standards are maintained, according to the A6 Alliance of air navigation service providers (ANSP) .

In a new paper published today, the A6 Alliance said the growth in the use of drones for commercial and recreational purposes presents both huge opportunities and significant challenges. Safely accommodating a new class of airspace user in Europe’s already busy skies requires careful planning and strong cooperation across both manned and unmanned industries.

Integrating drones alongside manned aviation, rather than creating new areas of segregated airspace, is critical to making best use of constrained airspace capacity and ensuring safety.

Roberta Neri, chair of the A6 Alliance, said: “ANSPs are required to provide fair and equitable access to airspace for all airspace users and we must safeguard that. ANSPs are uniquely positioned to provide a neutral core set of services on which U-Space services can flourish, ensuring a shared picture of the airspace between both manned and unmanned airspace users that enhances safety and enables fair and strong competition in the industry.

“The best way to enable the safe growth of this emerging industry is to build on the services that already exist to support safe use of the airspace and to ensure all airspace users share a common picture of what is happening in the airspace around them.”

The A6 Alliance paper sets out the critical role that ANSPs have to play in safely integrating the European Commission’s ‘U-space’ initiative with Europe’s existing manned aviation.

The A6 Alliance said this will not be the same as their role in today’s air traffic management system. It will require new ways of working, new partnerships and new attitudes but equally, it should build on the significant experience that ANSPs have accumulated in managing busy, complex airspace and contributing to industry-leading safety performance.

The A6 Alliance paper, “Safely integrating drones in to Europe’s airspace: Building on experience, progressing through partnership” is available on the  A6 Alliance website