The U-ELCOME project is helping get Europe-wide U-space implementation off the ground by fostering a fully scalable market uptake of U1 and U2 U-space services through a set of tests and demonstrations in various operational environments across 15 locations in Spain, Italy, and France.

Launched in November 2022, this 3-year project is coordinated by the EUROCONTROL Innovation Hub and involves 51 European partners. The U-ELCOME project will build on the outcomes of the previous European projects, while relying on real U-space systems, which are in operation or will be deployed by ENAIRE, ENAV, ASLOGIC, ITG, D-Flight and Thales during the execution of the project.

The project received funding from the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) under the Connecting Europe Facility in cooperation with the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking as one of its flagship Digital Sky Demonstrators (DSDs).

The drone industry: key for the EU’s economic future

Drones, or uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), have the potential to greatly support Europe's shift towards a green and digital economy, aid in post-COVID 19 recovery, and enhance the EU's economic resilience.

With a range of applications, from daily commuting to global supply chain management, drones play a vital role in our social and economic life. The European Green Deal calls for smart and sustainable transport systems, including electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft and digital services, and drone operations must be developed safely and sustainably to contribute to this goal.

Addressing safety, security, privacy, social acceptance, and environmental concerns while creating a sustainable economic environment for the growth of the European drone industry is crucial.

U-space services and smart traffic management solutions will be key in enabling drone operations and reaching the necessary high level of integration with Air Traffic Management (ATM).

15 locations in Italy, Spain and France to test and mature U-Space solutions

Building on the adoption of a first EU regulatory framework for UAS (Delegated Regulation 2019/945 and Implementing Regulation 2019/947) and U-space (Implementing Regulation 2021/664), the U-ELCOME project intends to foster the uptake of U1 and U2 U-space services through development, testing, and demonstration of early U1 and U2 U-space solutions across 15 locations in Spain, Italy, and France.

Combining digital and physical infrastructure capabilities, U-ELCOME will set up, deploy, and demonstrate the following SESAR solutions up to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 8:

  • U-space U1 — foundation services: these will identify drones and operators, and inform operators about known restricted areas. With the deployment of U1, more drone operations are enabled, especially in areas where the density of manned traffic is low. The U-space foundation services include e-registration, e-identification and geo-awareness.
  • U-space U2 — initial services: the main purpose of these is to support the safe management of “beyond visual line of sight” (BVLOS) operations and a first level of interface and connection with ATM/ATC and manned aviation. With the deployment of U2, the range of operations at low levels will increase, including some operations in controlled airspace. Drone flights will no longer be considered on a case-by-case basis, and some BVLOS operations will become routine. At least the following initial U-space services will be included: tactical geo-fencing, emergency management, strategic deconfliction, weather information, tracking, flight planning management, monitoring, traffic information, drone aeronautical information management, and a procedural interface with ATC.

The U-ELCOME demonstrations will interface the U-space set of services with existing ATM systems, and to each other. The capabilities and U1 and U2 services of the pre-operational U-space ecosystems will be demonstrated in various operational environments that represent the most typical missions for both business and civil authority use, such as medical and goods deliveries, inspection flights, aerial work in urban and sub-urban environments, in controlled and uncontrolled airspace.

The project, working in close cooperation with EASA and other international and national authorities and organisations, will also contribute to the consolidation of standardisation and regulatory requirements of the proposed U-space services.

For more information, visit the project website.