Drone technology is on the rise and the number of drones in the air is increasing at a rapid pace. These vehicles are often hard to detect since they literally fly below the radar. The chances of conflicts between drones and manned air traffic (or between drones themselves) pose safety concerns and require technology solutions.
CLASS or CLear Air Situation for uaS, is a project funded as part SESAR 2020, the programme for air traffic management modernization, and within the framework of Horizon 2020. The CLASS project aims to combine existing technologies to build the core functions need for safe and secure drone traffic management. More specifically, the research aims to validate technologies required for the surveillance of unmanned aerial systems (UAS, also known as drone) traffic.
Functionalities to be researched include real-time tracking and the display of both cooperative and non-cooperative drones. Drones that transmit their location themselves are called cooperative, whereas for non-cooperative drones the locations are observed and tracked by the external system. In both cases, relevant aeronautical data is aggregated and the data from multiple trackers (both on the drones and on the ground-based systems) is merged through data fusion so that the location of all drones in the airspace can be known and displayed.
Based on these functionalities, a surveillance system will be developed. This system will centralise information of both the planned and the current real-time drone traffic situation. The system will provide the basis with which to develop services tailored to end-users such as drone operators, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and authorities. Advanced services include tactical geo-fencing (where the drone pilot is warned automatically if he trespasses into an unauthorised zone), geo-caging (where the drone pilot is warned that he is leaving a pre-defined zone), conflict detection and resolution.
The project will validate the drone detection and tracking technologies during live demonstrations, and publish and share its results with the relevant stakeholders, including the drone users and the air traffic management community.Conclusions and recommendations for follow up will be largely disseminated to enable drones to safely operate on large scale for the benefit of the growing drone business. The conclusions and recommendations serve as the basis for future projects. They can also help regulatory bodies advance in the right direction, inform the industry on where to put efforts and show the research community where are the technological difficulties.
The CLASS project is spearheaded by Airbus Defense and Space. International partners Aveillant, ENAC, NTNU and Unifly join forces to research and evaluate the ground-based technologies’ potential to monitor and separate drone traffic in a real-time unmanned aerial system traffic management system (UTMS).
“Airspace safety is a major concern for Airbus. By leading CLASS and bringing its expertise in safety of life systems, Airbus supports authorities and their regulation of the airspace to ensure that all users can fly safely, without endangering neither airspace users nor the public on the ground,” says Alexandre Piot, Aerospatial Engineer at Airbus Defense and Space.
As the technological pillar of the Single European Sky initiative, SESAR aims to modernise and harmonise air traffic management in Europe. The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) was established in 2007 as a public-private partnership to support this endeavour. It does so by pooling the knowledge and resources of the entire ATM community in order to define, research, develop and validate innovative technological and operational solutions. The SESAR JU is also responsible for the execution of the European ATM Master Plan which defines the EU priorities for R&D and implementation. Founded by the European Union and Eurocontrol, the SESAR JU has 19 members, who together with their partners and affiliate associations represent over 100 companies working in Europe and beyond. The SESAR JU also works closely with staff associations, regulators, airport operators and the scientific community.
Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.
Coupling research and innovation, Horizon 2020’s focus is on Europe’s competitive edge in the global market. The goal is to ensure Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.
U-space is a set of new services and specific procedures designed to support safe, efficient and secure access to airspace for large numbers of drones. These services rely on a high level of digitalisation and automation of functions, whether they are on board the drone itself, or are part of the ground-based environment.
The CLASS project complies with services U1, U2 and U3 as defined in the U-space initiative. U1 foundation services provide e-registration, e-identification and geofencing. U2 initial services support the management of drone operations and may include flight planning, flight approval, tracking, airspace dynamic information, and procedural interfaces with air traffic control. U3 advanced services support more complex operations in dense areas and may include capacity management and assistance for conflict detection. Indeed, the availability of automated Detect And Avoid (DAA) functionalities, in addition to more reliable means of communication, will lead to a significant increase of operations in all environments.
Airbus Defence and Space is an integrated company composed of three Business Lines: Military Aircraft, Space Systems and Communication Intelligence and Security. Airbus’ engineers have been working for decades on confliction detection and resolution algorithms.
ENAC, the French Civil Aviation University, is a public institution under the supervision of the French Ministry of transport. Its mission is to provide ab-initio and further training for the executives and main players of the civil aviation world and do research in a variety of air transport related domains.
Unifly is the leading provider of UAS Traffic Management (UTM) software in Europe. Not only active in research projects, the Unifly UTM platform is a deployed product that is currently in use by prominent European air navigation service providers.
Aveillant specialises in the development and production of innovative radar products. The company was created as a spin-off from Cambridge Consultants in 2011 to take to market the ground-breaking Holographic Radar technology. The team includes some of the world’s leading experts in radar design and signal processing.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim is the largest and most prominent Norwegian university in engineering and technology. The Department of Engineering Cybernetics (ITK) is part of the Faculty of Information Technology, Mathematics and Electrical Engineering (IME) at NTNU.