The popularity of drone technology keeps growing, as does the number of these unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the air. But with the increasing number of drones going skyward, the risk of aircraft collisions rises as well. The Drone-it! device, collaboratively developed by Airbus Defence and Space, aims to tackle the issue by monitoring and separating drone traffic.
Drones are can be difficult to detect, as they are small and often indistinguishable on radar. Drone-it! will contribute to real-time tracking and display possibilities for unmanned aerial vehicles, thereby improving airspace safety through enhanced air traffic management (ATM).
Using a GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receiver and transmitter – as well as integrating a new chipset being developed by Airbus telecommunications experts for the Internet of Things – the Drone-it! device effectively “turns drones visible,” according to Alexandre Piot, Drone Traffic Management Project Manager at Airbus Defence and Space.
Transmitting independently from a drone’s avionics system, the chipset can communicate directly to ground networks or be relayed via a geostationary-orbit satellite.
During live trials performed in the UK during October 2018, Drone-it! was combined with a specially-developed radar for detecting small drones. These trials were part of the CLASS (CLear Air Situation for UAS) project, which is included in the Single European Sky ATM Research project exploring Europe’s U-space concept. U-space is defined as a set of services enabling safe and fair access to airspace for all users.
The UK demonstrations in October involved 40 flights and six scenarios, with data collected from both cooperative and non-cooperative drones for analysis to develop a data fusion algorithm.
Airbus Defence and Space is coordinator for the CLASS project, joined by Aveillant, Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (ENAC), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and Unifly. CLASS is funded in part by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, a public-private partnership established to improve Europe’s air traffic management.