DSNA and Defence pioneering integration of MALE RPAS in civil air traffic 

Base aérienne (BA) de Cognac, le drone MQ-9 Reaper n°612 a réalisé mardi 4 juillet 2017 son premier vol au-dessus du territoire national.

French civil and military authorities are committed to participation in the development of a European regulation to integrate Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) RPAS in civil air traffic in nonsegregated airspace. During a three hour test, Bordeaux and Marseille control centers (ACCs) controlled a military MALE drone in their airspace FL 145 / FL 230 in a safe manner on the 19th of May, 2020. 

For a training mission with an AWACS in a military area (TSA) located in the South-East of France, the French Air Force flew a REAPER RPAS, based in the military airbase of Cognac, in civil air traffic beyond segregated airspace on the 19th of May, 2020. Prior to conducting this trial, the National Supervisory Authority had validated the safety study. 

Bordeaux and Marseille ACCs have controlled the REAPER without specific onboard equipment such as a ‘Detect and avoid’ system, between FL 145 and FL 230, and successfully performed handovers between civil units and military units in lower and upper airspace. The REAPER has performanced equivalent to regional aircraft. The initial feedback of this live trial is promising. The RPAS has demonstrated that it could fly on its planned route, but also evolved the same fashion as a manned aircraft under real-life operational conditions.  One example during the tactical phase, the controller had given a new heading instruction without notice to take a direct route. 

Since 2017, DSNA, the French Air Navigation Service Provider, the French Air Force and the French military aviation Authority have been performing test flights to assess accommodations of RPAS within civil IFR air traffic including coordination, transfers and abnormal modes. 

General Reutter, director of the French military Authority, welcomes this event. With this operational exercise, we can confirm risk analysis under the auspice of the European Defence Agency (EDA). We are proud that these results can feed the Guidelines for accommodations from the EDA and EASA. They will participate in the current working on the part ‘Certified’ of the ongoing civil drone European regulation and should facilitate the implementation of the European MALE program.”

“The French civil and military Authorities are very much committed to building a safe, fair and efficient airspace for both manned and unmanned operations. Moreover, DSNA actively participates in the SESAR program to enable RPAS insertion in nominal and emergency conditions in controlled airspace. The results of this trial will be very helpful”, said Maurice Georges, DSNA Director. 

A new, more advanced experiment with cross-border operations will be led by the end of this year 2020.