The European approach to safe drone integration

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The drone industry has the potential to generate significant economic growth and societal value. The development and growth of the industry is heavily dependent on drones being able to fly safely in airspace areas.

To accomplish this, it is essential that drone operations and manned traffic can be managed in an efficient manner through management solutions such as UTM software for example.

The increasing presence of drones in airspaces means this brings an increase in security, safety and privacy concerns for authorities, but for the general public and businesses as well. Left unchecked, without proper legal and safety regulations, these concerns could turn into serious security, safety and privacy threats.


SesarIn 2007, the SESAR Joint Undertaking was established by the European Union and EUROCONTROL. Since the current ATM system in use in Europe is based on ageing technology and procedures, it is essential that this is updated, seeing as there is an expected traffic growth between now and 2035. For this reason, SESAR was founded to increase ATM performance and to build Europe’s intelligent air transport system.

In line of these goals, the SESAR Joint Undertaking has launched a series of projects to support the realization of the European Commission’s U-Space vision to ensure safe and secure access to airspace for drones. A total of €9 million has been made available for the selected projects, with a duration of 2 years.

SESAR, part of the ambitious ‘Single European Sky (SES)’ initiative of the European Union, is the mechanism which coordinates and concentrates all EU research and development activities in ATM. It does so by pooling together experts to develop and guide the new generation of Air Traffic Management. SESAR currently unites 3,000 experts in Europe and beyond.

Unifly is involved in some of these projects, such as CLASS, which stands for ‘Clear Air Situation for UAs’. CLASS is focused on the tracking and surveillance service of U-Space. It explores the combination of technologies in a way that data coming from the surveillance of both cooperative and non-cooperative vehicles are merged to enable conflict detection & resolution and protection of restricted areas (such as airports).

CORUS, which stands for ‘Concept of Operations for European UTM Systems’, another project Unifly is involved in, aims to establish a concept of operations for U-Space. The project explores nominal situations to address drone operations near airfields and controlled airspace and for transfer between controlled and non-controlled airspaces. The project identifies key issues for society and offers solutions to ease social acceptance, identifies necessary technical developments and quantifies the level of safety and performance required.

Drone flight
The increasing presence of drones in airspaces means this brings an increase in security, safety and privacy concerns

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An overview of all projects can be found here. The practical implementation of these projects will be demonstrated by the PODIUM (Proving Operations of Drones with Initial UTM) project, as well as the demonstration of unmanned aircraft traffic management (UTM) systems at four operational sites in Denmark, France and the Netherlands throughout 2018 and 2019.

Despite the integration of guidelines, laws and regulations, they offer no guaranteed compliance from all drone operators.

So, are laws and regulations the only defense we have against these threats? Definitely not. Whilst the drone industry is expanding at a rapid rate, there is also a rise in the development of counter measures against unwanted drone presences. What are some of those counter measures exactly, you may wonder? We took a look at some interesting technologies available today.