Dr. Hans Brants

Scientist, Netherlands Aerospace Centre NLR

Since the 1990’s, Dr Hans Brants from the Testing and Certification department of the Netherlands Aerospace Centre NLR is involved in UAS-projects and working groups, with focus on airworthiness, operations, detect and avoid, and flight crew, e.g.: airworthiness of the Sperwer for the NLD army and B-Hunter for the BE army, NATO STANAG 4671 and 4702, USICO (Unmanned aerial vehicle Safety Issues for Civil Operations), the JAA/EUROCONTROL UAV Task Force, European RPAS Steering Group ERSG, EUROCAE WG73 and WG105, and airspace integration projects like PODIUM (SJU) and SIRENS (EDA).

Abstract: Integration of drones in the airspace – what is really needed?

Market studies predict a huge increase in the number of drones, for commercial and recreational purposes, civil and military, of all sizes and types. During the last decade, many design challenges have been identified and solved, or are in the process of being solved, e.g. the design of autopilots, the remote pilot station, and the command and control link. But how should these drones behave among other drones and manned aircraft, or: how should they ‘integrate in the airspace’?

The rules for aircraft behaviour have evolved over the last century to a set of ‘rules of the air’, sometimes learnt by bitter experience. For commercial aviation this has led to an extensive air traffic control system, on board equipment for collision avoidance, and training for all involved personnel, with as result that each aircraft is now safely guided to its destination. Drones flying amongst these aircraft shall seamlessly adapt to this and not reduce safety of manned aviation.

In contrast, recreational aviation has evolved less over the last century, and hence has a less bright safety record: it may operate in airspace where there is no air traffic control, does not have the expensive on board equipment for collision avoidance, and the crews are less well trained. For recreational aviation, ‘integration in the airspace’ may be summarized as ‘see and avoid’ other aircraft. As a consequence, the safety record is far from that of commercial aviation, and one may question whether drones flying amongst these aircraft should seamlessly adapt to this.

Drone aviation has not had a century to evolve, but only the last decades. Moreover, learning to fly a drone takes less time than learning to fly a manned aircraft and hence drones pilots may be less well trained than recreational pilots and as they are not on-board their aircraft, have a different perception of risk. Yet they shall adhere to the same ‘rules of the air’ if they wish to fly among recreational or commercial manned aircraft. As a first step, the European Commission and the Single European Sky initiative now sponsor a series of research projects to explore the concept of U Space: a series of services to safely integrate drones in the airspace.

The presentation distinguishes different streams of integrating drones in the airspace. The presentation challenges the concept of ‘see and avoid’ for manned aviation, suggests that recreational manned aviation may benefit from on board access to U Space services, and concludes that eventually manned aviation may become safer due to developments in drone-technology.