ESA title


  • STATUSCompleted
  • THEMATIC AREAAviation, Safety & Security

Objectives of the service

Several initiatives towards RPAS air traffic insertion have been fostered by ESA, EDA and other stakeholders during the last few years (e.g. ESA SINUE and EDA IDEAS feasibility studies), and a high interest from potential users and stakeholders has been maintained since the beginning of these projects. Thus, as a natural step forward, this joint ESA-EDA initiative proposes a RPAS maritime surveillance demonstration with the following objectives: Demonstrate the capability of safe insertion of RPAS in non-segregated airspace using satellites, identify issues and required procedures, and provide early inputs to regulatory bodies. Demonstrate to the potential user communities that RPAS supported by satellites and flying in non-segregated airspace can fulfil their needs.

DeSIRE System

Users and their needs

The DeSIRE demonstration project is targeting governmental and international organisations responsible for service operations, such as civil security bodies, national coast guards, border control authorities, etc.

DeSIRE is supported by a wide range of RPAS (potential) users and stakeholders from different countries (France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain):

  • GUCI: Spanish "Guardia Civil"
  • AENA: Spanish ANSP and airport management
  • INTA: Spanish National Institute of Aerospace Technology
  • EASA: European Aviation Safety Agency
  • EUROCONTROL - European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation
  • EUROCAE WG-73: Working Group on UAV Systems (UAS)
  • KLu: Royal Netherlands Air Force
  • Protezione Ambiente Provincia di Caserta
  • ARPAC: Agenzia Regionale Protezione Ambiente
  • Campania Capitaneria del Porto di Napoli
  • C.I.R.A. - Italian Aerospace Research Centre
  • and more ¦

Most of them have expressed their interest to participate in the consolidation of the users and mission requirements and in the review of the project results, lessons learnt and recommendations. The project is also addressing regulatory stakeholders. It foresees dissemination actions to provide relevant demonstration results and support the regulatory progress on Air traffic insertion. EASA, EUROCONTROL as well as EUROCAE WG 73 are also providing inputs in the course of the project.

Among all of these RPAS users and stakeholders, it is worth mentioning the Spanish organizations that will play a key actor role collaborating actively and supporting the planned demonstration flights:

  • Spanish Air Force (SpAF);
  • Guardia Civil (GUCI);
  • Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA).

Service/ system concept

The DeSIRE project is aimed at demonstrating maritime surveillance services using RPAS supported by satellite. The demonstration mission will be performed over south-east Spanish Mediterranean sea. The RPAS will make use of RLOS communications and BRLOS communications (i.e. by satellites) for the Command and Control of the RPA, the relay of ATC and the transfer of the payload data to the ground in near real time. Flights will take place over both segregated and civil-controlled airspaces, in order to prove the capability of safe insertion of RPAS into non-segregated airspace using satellites.

During the flights, the information captured by the payloads (i.e. maritime radar and day / night stabilised camera) will be transmitted in real time to the ground and integrated in the SIVE system (i.e. the maritime borders surveillance system operated by the Spanish Guardia Civil), in order to demonstrate to the user communities the potential added-value RPAS with satcom support can offer to them.

Space Added Value

Satellite communication systems can provide a significant added value to RPAS missions and will be a key technology for their future operation within non-segregated airspace. The capability of offering global, broadband and safe communications for BLOS operations (both for payload and safety communications) must be highlighted among all satellite services of interest for RPAS.

Satellite navigation also plays an important role for UAS. With satellite navigation the UAS can be navigated without using ground based navigation systems as reference. Payload data can also be precisely geo-referenced.

Current Status

At Baseline Design Review milestone, on October 2012, the following specifications documents were successfully produced with the collaboration of many European stakeholders:

  • Demonstration Requirements
  • High-level Mission and System Architecture Definition.

The Critical Design Review meeting, held at EDA premises by mid-January, consolidated the following deliverables:

  • Demonstration Mission Management Concept
  • Demonstration System Detailed Architecture
  • System Verification Test Plan (1st issue)
  • CONOPS Definition (1st issue)

By the 22nd of April 2013, all the applicable formal permissions/authorizations were obtained and the demonstration system was ready for the trials. During the Demonstration Qualification Review meeting, held at San Javier airport (Murcia, Spain), ESA and EDA authorized to start the demonstration flights campaign.

San Javier Air Base (Murcia) was selected to conduct the trials. On the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of April, a series of test flights was performed to demonstrate the role of satellite communications for integrating RPAS flying in Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) in civil and military airspaces. Furthermore, a generic terrestrial and maritime surveillance mission was carried out, successfully demonstrating the dual use of RPAS.

Relevant communications parameters were measured during the different flight stages.

The demonstration flights campaign was complemented with a Observation Day attended by more than 100 representatives from different European stakeholder organizations, as well as in the presence of the Chief of Staff of the Spanish Air Force, Francisco Javier Garcí­a-Arnaiz. For more information about the demonstration flights campaign, please visit: ESA-EDA-Flight-Demonstration


Quantitative and qualitative information collected during the demonstration flights were analyzed and assessed. They led to final conclusions, learnt lessons and recommendations, which were disseminated in different international events (EUROCAE WG 73 plenary session, November; 11th Maritime Reconnaissance and Surveillance conference, September 2013).

The DeSIRE final presentation took place at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, on November 29th, 2013, in the frame of the "4th User/Stakeholder Workshop on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS)" organised by ESA, EDA, EUROCONTROL and EASA.

The project is now completed and its main achievements can be summarized as follows:

  • It has been generated preliminary evidence that using satellite technologies for RPAS safety communications and payload is acceptable in terms of link quality (data rate capacity, latency, BER and availability), in particular for the communications between the Air Traffic Controller and Pilot-in-Command. Thus, an important result of DeSIRE is that satellites can constitute a key enabler for inserting RPAS operations into the general airspace, allowing them to follow ATC instructions properly.
  • Feedback received from the participating users and stakeholders (the Spanish Guardia Civil and Spanish Air Force) about the flight campaign demonstrated that RPAS supported by satellite for flying BRLOS can satisfy user needs for maritime surveillance missions in terms of detection, location, tracking, recognition and identification of mobile and fixed targets both at sea and on the coastline.
  • Finally, the experience and tests results collected during the project have yielded a series of lessons learnt and recommendations to be used as valuable input by those actors participating in the regulatory and R&D activities that will cover the required roadmap to insert RPAS operations into General Air Traffic, thus permitting a wide spectrum of civil applications to become a reality in Europe.


Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 30 May 2013