Unmanned aircraft systems

Helping to make Europe’s skies safe and accessible to all.

About

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations are becoming more frequent. These new airspace users need to be integrated not just for military purposes, but also for civil, commercial and leisure use.

The vast range of possible applications is creating a new and expanding market where technological advances are happening at a very fast pace. The integration of UAS in European airspace is essential in realising the potential of this growing industry.

Together with our partners, we want to ensure that European busy skies are safe and accessible to all and we are working hard to ensure that manned and unmanned aircraft can operate together in a safe and efficient manner.

Our role

U-space is the European eco-system of services and functionalities to support drone operations. When fully deployed, a wide range of U-space missions that are currently being restricted will be possible. However, there is a need to develop a traffic management system for UAS, and define how it will all work technically and institutionally. The overall ATM system will need to handle low-level urban drone operations, high-flying military remotely piloted aircraft systems and the traditional mix of airlines, military, business and private jets. EUROCONTROL's role is to ensure the safe integration of UAS while safeguarding the rights of all airspace users.

We have a pivotal role in developing European and global concepts, providing support to development of regulations for integrating manned and unmanned air vehicles, both civil and military, in the airspace and keeping a close eye on the wider UAS development landscape.

We have developed a UAS ATM Integration Operational Concept, which is fully complementary to the EASA CONOPS. We develop safety cases and run simulations that can assess the safety of drone operations as well as reveal the complexities of integration. We have data on RPAS performance and have developed models capable of flying at different levels with different performances.

Our work focuses primarily on ATM-critical issues related to UAS integration that will maintain safety of ATM, deliver performance benefits, whilst monitoring new developments and ensuring that the non-ATM issues are properly identified and addressed by the relevant stakeholders in good time.

We also organise webinars to create a common understanding on UAS ATM and deliver guidance material, in partnership with EASA, addressing the overall elements deemed important for a safe integration of UAS/RPAS - including airspace assessment, common altitude reference system and flight rules.

Most military UAS operations in Europe are currently restricted to segregated airspace or they are flown at very high flight levels, or alternatively over the sea. This is required in order to ensure the safe operations of UAS and other airspace users. However, there is a need to allow these aircraft to operate outside segregated airspace as well. To this end, we have developed specifications for the harmonisation of air traffic control procedures for military RPAS flying in peacetime as Operational Air Traffic, both within and outside controlled airspace.

To manage Euro hawk (EH) and Global hawk (GH) flights in European airspace, we have developed guidelines, which set a minimum of ATM requirements for these airspace users. GH/EH operators can use them as the basis for negotiating access to national airspace within Europe. Even though they are not mandatory, it is expected that those States which allow GH/EH to fly in their airspace will incorporate many, if not all, of the guidelines into their national ATM rules and procedures.

Since the first UAS application, this new airspace user and its technology have been posing challenges to regulations, legislations, technology, research, business models and ethics. In view of an effective integration, cooperation is required between organisations, industry, agencies and other UAS key important players.

To this end, we support and work together with the European Commission, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE), and the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU). We also cooperate closely with the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to ensure the safe integration of military RPAS/UAS flights across Europe alongside manned civil and military aviation. We are also involved in various pilot projects with European agencies such as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

We work with ICAO on developing global standards and recommended practices (SARPs) for UAS operations and with the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS), as well as the Stakeholders Consultation Body (SCB), to make recommendations on a set of technical safety and operational requirements for the certification and safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into airspace and aerodromes.

We contribute in a number of working groups and bodies and we are a member of the support cell of European Network of U-space Demonstrator.

2017 in numbers
10.6 million

Flights per year

0.88

minutes of ATFM delay per flight

4,600

Flights canceled due to strikes

1.3 million

minutes delay saved

51

ACCs operating Free Route Airspace

Projects and initiatives

CORUS

Concept of operations for European UTM systems

PJ10 PROSA

Controller tools and team organisation for the provision of separation in air traffic management

European Network of U-space Demonstrators

PODIUM

Providing operations of drones with initial UAS traffic management

UAS no-fly areas

Check out where you can operate your UAS

It is important to know where you can and are allowed to operate your UAS as an enthusiast or enterprise.

Euronews - Boarding pass

Europe's drone challenge

This Euronews/Boarding pass episode looks at “The Drone Challenge” posed to European ATM by a rapidly-expanding industry estimated to be worth, in Europe alone, €15 billion by 2025, and generating 150,000 new jobs by 2050.

Preparedness

Crises are unpredictable, but should not be left to chance. In preparation for the worst, NM and the EACCC simulate certain crisis scenarios. These exercises are done regularly and consider different causes from natural disasters to man-made catastrophes.

Videos on UAS

Europe's drone challenge

The challenges of small drones

Together towards a safe integration of UAS

JARUS Portal

EUROCONTROL is contributing to the work of JARUS – joint authorities for rulemaking on unmanned systems