One of the biggest challenges for widespread commercial deployment of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) is to be able to fly the unmanned aircraft in non-segregated airspace, i.e. in an airspace that is available to any user. In the IAP feasibility study "SINUE (Satellites for the Integration in Non-segregated airspace of UAS in Europe)" it has been investigated how satellites can be used for providing a Beyond Line-of-Sight connection between the Ground Control Station and the unmanned aircraft, both for the purpose of Command & Control and Air Traffic Control (ATC) communication, required to fly the unmanned aircraft itself, as well as for payload communication. Within the project a demonstration scenario has been worked out, which is expected to be able to pave the way for integrating UAS in non-segregated airspace using satellites.
The suggested scenario is focused on maritime surveillance needs as brought forward by a number of end-users. The UAS would be equipped with various sensors and flown over large areas of water to gather surveillance data to detect for example illegal immigration, suspicious shipping, or environmental pollution. Link-budget evaluations as well as simulations verified that satellite communication is capable to supply a reliable high-bit rate communication link to transmit e.g. high-quality video from the aircraft.s sensors to a ground station. The analyses also verified that a two-way Command & Control/ATC relay link can be provided by a satellite in the whole mission area.
A part of the SINUE study has been dedicated to investigate issues related to ATC communication and procedures when flying UAS in controlled non-segregated airspace, which is considered the next main step for UAS air traffic insertion and is also the baseline of the potential demonstration mission. The investigations made use of the NARSIM simulation environment, with which a realistic air traffic control environment can be created and challenging situations can be simulated without having to fly any aircraft for real. The simulations were concentrating on general ATC handling of UAS, both when using terrestrial communications for Line-of-Sight conditions as well as satellite based communications for Beyond Line-of-Sight conditions, and contingency procedures in case of communication loss. The simulated scenarios were demanding involving dense airliner traffic next to the unmanned aircraft.
The main conclusions from these simulations are the following:
. In the considered scenario, handling a UAS did not pose particular problems for the Air Traffic Controllers and the latency caused by the satellite communication had no influence on the controller.s work.
. It is important that the Emergency Procedures for the UAS are well known by the controllers. Emergency routes need to be developed in consultation with the local ATCs.
. A telephone connection between the ATC and the pilot of the UAS needs to be available as back-up and procedures for its use need to be established.
. There was no negative effect on the safety caused by flying the UAS in the considered scenario. Click here to see a video showing how the NARSIM simulations were carried out.
This initiative is carried out in partnership with EDA.