SINUE Satellites enabling the Integration in Non-segregated airspace of UAS in Europe

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The SINUE study will investigate the technical feasibility and economic / regulatory viability of integrating space based systems with UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in order to enable their integration into non-segregated airspace and to relay payload data for new institutional and commercial services in near real-time. The feasibility study is envisaged as a first step to be followed by a demonstration project in which currently available assets (space assets, UAS, terrestrial systems) will be used, with the implementation of sustainable operational services as final goal. The coordination with related stakeholders is considered as an essential element to facilitate the implementation of a solution. The stakeholders include end users, regulatory and safety agencies, governmental agencies, UAS manufacturers/integrators, satellite service providers, etc.

The objectives of the feasibility study are:

  1. To determine the feasibility and the overall planning for a UAS mission that will demonstrate:
    -that UAS can be integrated (to a certain extent) into non-segregated airspace using space assets like satellite communications and satellite navigation for Command and Control, Sense and Avoid and ATC (Air Traffic Control) relay,
    -the added value of satellite communications for high data-rate payload links.
  2. To provide a detailed investigation of the viability of the selected solution.
  3. To identify the investments necessary in the future and the next steps required in technical and regulatory terms to effectively establish a service solution. Furthermore, a roadmap for the development of specific institutional and commercial services should be provided.
The tasks to be carried out include : 
  • A review of stakeholder and user needs and a survey of feasible UAS missions for a demonstration project intended to take place in Europe in 2011/2012.
  • A survey of available UAS platforms to be used for a future demonstration project 
  • A survey of available space assets able to fulfil the regulatory and user requirements.
  • A characterisation of common UAS payloads.
  • The selection of a representative mission for the end-users.
  • Simulations and visualisations of the selected mission.
  • The identification of the infrastructural needs and limitations and of the required endorsement of the stakeholders for the demonstration.
  • A cost/benefit analysis and the analysis of non-economical viability aspects (legal, regulatory, etc.)
  • The elaboration of a roadmap for the implementation of services making use of UAS and space assets.
  • The preparation of a demonstration mission with a strong involvement of relevant user groups.

Users and their needs

Users for new institutional and commercial applications and services can be found for example in the following sectors:

  • Maritime surveillance & coastguard
  • Border control Civil security and Law enforcement
  • Infrastructure monitoring (oil and gas pipelines, power grids, etc.)
  • Disaster management and mitigation
  • Fire fighting
  • Agricultural, forestry and fishery monitoring
  • Communications and Broadcasting

The most relevant needs of these users are:

  • Secure and safe flight capability in non-segregated airspace
  • Availability of relevant payload instruments
  • Affordability of the new services compared with existing solutions.
  • Existence of and access to UAS service providers

Space Added Value

The main benefits of integrating space based systems with UAS are:

  • Demonstrating the capability to operate UAS safely in non-segregated air space (e.g. complying with the requested level of safety-of-flight communication needed for the operations).
  • Opening a wide field of new institutional and commercial applications and services based on the usage of UAS in and beyond line of sight.
  • Closing the gap between remote sensing data from Earth Observation satellites (spatial and temporal resolution) and in situ ground sensors by providing UAS:s as flexible tools with respect to spatial resolution (flight altitude), temporal resolution (revisit cycles), automation and endurance.

Product Features

Space systems such as communications and navigation satellites will be used for controlling the unmanned aircraft Beyond Line-of-Sight (BLOS) of a ground station (command and control, sense and avoid, air traffic communication) Space systems such as communications on satellites will be used for the downlink of high bit-rate payload data to the end-users.

Key Issues

To gather the information needed to perform a real demonstration for an UAS-mission, expected to perform a wide variety of institutional and commercial applications during 2011/2012.

Challenges to solve:

  • Barriers preventing the integration of UAS into the non-segregated airspace and ATM system. 
  • Lack of adequate and consolidated business cases for UAS operations.
  • Excessively high insurance liability costs (mainly due to the integration barriers).

Current Status

Phase 1 Mission Selection Completed

  • End-users needs & stakeholders
  • State-of-the-art of the UAS infrastructure
  • State-of-the-art of the supportive space based assets
  • Mission selection for a potential demonstration project

Phase 2 Mission Definition - Completed

  • Detailed mission demonstration definition
  • Selection of the mission simulation methodology
  • Complete mission visualisation

Phase 3 Feasibility Assessment and Roadmap - Completed

  • Technical feasibility assessment
  • Cost/benefit analysis
  • Non-economic viability analysis
  • Roadmap for future developments
  • Mission Plan for the UAS demonstration

The Final Review of the project was held in September 2010.

Project Managers

Contractor Project Manager

Toni Gonzalez Novell
Spain

ESA Project Manager

Stefan Gustafsson
Netherlands

Status Date

Updated: 15 September 2010 - Created: 15 February 2014