FLAMES - Demonstration of automated Flight Management for the operation of Unmanned Aerial Systems

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Objectives of the service

With project FLAMES, Unisphere demonstrates the capabilities of automated flight management in two relevant user scenarios – maritime surveillance/emissions monitoring and urban drone services. Key software elements of Unisphere´s Flight Management Platform (FMP) can also be used for flight management of air taxis and HAPS at a later stage. For the first-time high-resolution weather information, Copernicus digital elevation model, flight performance models and optimization algorithms are integrated into a highly automated flight planning system which is provisioned as SaaS. As a result, each individual autonomous flight will be safe with minimum human interaction. Increased safety, optimal usage during flight operation and lean software solutions assure commercial viability in applications with unmanned aircraft systems. The implementation into flight operations of Nordic Unmanned and Matternet drone systems is a testimony to automated flight management.

Image credit: Unisphere, Project :FLAMES

Users and their needs

Nordic Unmanned undertakes multiple governmental missions in Europe for maritime drone operations. The use case provides an example to demonstrate significant improvements to mission efficiency and aircraft endurance using the Flight Management Platform.

The benefits are:

  • Optimization of time in mission area for maritime surveillance operations
  • Service availability predictions identifies the most suitable time to fly and to optimize flight profiles automatically
  • Safe and efficient in-flight re-planning reduces operator workload
  • Overall risk of mission decreases due to constant weather monitoring
  • Compliance with airspace regulations and defined flight sectors
  • Post-flight analysis of flight data improves drone performance models

Matternet is an on-demand delivery platform, offering an end-to-end solution integrating Matternet M2 Drones, the Matternet Station and the Matternet Cloud Platform. Matternet provides its platform as a service to healthcare, e-commerce and logistics organizations worldwide. In combination with the FMP, a fully automated solution for urban environments is demonstrated and allows users without aeronautical background to operate drones safely and efficiently.

Further benefits are:

  • Reduction of safety pilots presence at takeoff / landing while maintaining equal level of safety
  • Accurate en-route flight simulations enable longer flights
  • Control center can supervise and control multiple flights in parallel
  • Service availability predictions make drone deliveries predicable in logistics chain
  • Simplification and automation of flight planning tasks

Service/ system concept

Service:

The user of the Flight Management Platform can efficiently plan and execute UAS missions on a regular basis. As an example: The illustrated prototype of the Unisphere Dashboard enables UAS operators to plan their flights on with a weekly forecast while maintaining UAS and operational limits. Several hundred flight path predictions using high-resolution weather data are carried out in the cloud infrastructure and are updated several times a day. The dashboard is one example of applications within the Flight Management Platform and is complemented by further modules like: Interactive Flight Planning, Flight Execution, Flight Watch and Postflight Analysis. It covers the overall service value chain for UAS missions.

Image credit: Unisphere, Project : FLAMES

Global Architecture:

The FMP is hosted in the cloud and provided to users as SaaS. Unisphere updates and releases new features regularly. The FMP collects information about UAS status (position, energy etc.) through other USPs (U-Space Service Provider) or directly from the UAS operator. Furthermore, the FMP integrates meteorological and aeronautical information which is acquired by external providers. Drone performance data are required to precisely simulate the behaviour of the UAS and can be either acquired through flying experience (measurements) of an operator or directly from the UAS manufacturer. Additional sources of information such as the services provided by Copernicus Digital Elevation Model (DEM) and up-to-date satellite images are gathered to deliver situational awareness to the UAS operator and users of the FMP. The FMP interacts with U-Space and communicates with the Flight Information Management System/FIMS and the Inter-USP platform.

Image credit: Unisphere, Project : FLAMES

Space Added Value

In many cases drones operate near the ground with lower vertical safety margins than manned aviation. In order to have sufficient safety margin, a drone operator must know the exact terrain height as well as the height of obstacles along the route. Within project FLAMES, Unisphere implements the EU-DEM v1.0 digital surface model (DSM) which provides a vertical accuracy of +-7m within a pixel size of 25m. Combined with obstacle data being provided by national institutions, the EU-DEM allows accurate and safe flight planning of routes near the ground.

Nordic Unmanned will integrate Satcom technology into their RPAS. The SATCOM system is planned to be demonstrated on the Camflight BG-200 heavy lifter multicopter drone. Operational capabilities and the added value of SATCOM for maritime RPAS operations are assessed during a study and during demonstration flights.

Current Status

The project started on 1st of May 2020. To date system and user requirements have been collected and introduced into the software developments of the FMP. The Satcom system has been selected and structural implementation into the BG-200 is prepared.

Several target customers have been interviewed for their requirements and initial products of the FMP could be launched with three pilot customers in the targeted market segment.

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 14 October 2020 - Created: 14 October 2020