Figuring it out in advance: drone airspace simulations

3 September 2018

Before unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can operate in controlled airspace, complex simulation exercises have to be run to ensure safety or airspace capacity will not be affected.

EUROCONTROL’s Experimental Centre has invested in software for simulating the performance of drones in detail. We have now developed four UAS models, capable of flying at different levels – such as Global Hawk and Reaper. We have included them in our aircraft performance base-of-aircraft-data (BADA), available to anyone who does airspace simulation research.

First exercises have involved simulating a multinational airspace environment with realistic traffic flows and inserting UAS into the traffic mix. We then capture in detail what the controllers need procedurally and in terms of system support to allow UAS to be seamlessly integrated into their normal traffic.

Simulations have also been run on contingency measures, seeing what the UAS would do if there were a significant link failure.

Kevin Harvey, leader of Real-Time Simulations at the Experimental Centre, explains: “Everybody is very excited about drones. But people forget that we’re operating in a safety-critical system and we need to assess the overall impact of drones in the airspace overall and that’s something that we are only starting to do now.”

Download our full article on this topic featured in our Skyway Issue 68.

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