May 29, 2020

Modernising the Sky: U-space and the future of drones in Europe

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)’s recently published draft opinion on the future of U-space in Europe embodies a foundational principle of the aviation industry: the sky is a shared resource that, when overseen safely and fairly, promises profound benefit to all. The EASA framework offers a path for Europe’s aviation infrastructure to leverage new technologies and make air transport smarter, safer, and universally accessible.

While we do see opportunities to work with the European Commission and Member States to continue refining the draft--including opportunities to enhance automation and improve interoperability among U-space stakeholders--the proposal itself represents a significant step for the advancement of unmanned aircraft systems.

We support EASA’s efforts to enable a new, complementary traffic management ecosystem that works with the current ATM framework to support diverse unmanned aircraft.

Digital and distributed architecture: a distributed system of U-space service providers (USSP) improves reliability, drives automation, and ensures the system can scale with the growth of drone operations.

Competitive marketplace: an ecosystem of multiple and diverse USSPs can develop innovative capabilities that meet the needs of diverse drone operators and support future applications for unmanned aviation.

European harmonization: a consistent approach to U-space across Europe ensures a reliable framework for operators to access the skies and a safer European airspace for manned and unmanned pilots alike.

An open and competitive marketplace

The volume and diversity of drone operations to come would put tremendous strain on the current air traffic management system. There will be more aircraft, flying in more places, on-demand, with more unique form factors, and types of missions than we’ve ever seen before.

To support this scale, EASA acknowledges the value of an open and competitive marketplace. An ecosystem of multiple and diverse USSPs will develop innovative services that meet the needs of diverse UAS operators and enable future applications for unmanned aviation.

Collaborative U-space Ecosystem

A network of U-space Service Providers (USSPs)

that offer highly automated services like automated flight authorizations, remote identification compliance and strategic deconfliction to help support diverse drone operators.

A framework for interoperability

to enable USSPs to share information digitally in real time for purposes including deconfliction and remote identification.

Oversight from regulators

to ensure USSP compliance with performance-based rules.

Wing’s vision for how drones can access the sky in Europe through EASA’s development of U-space

For example, Wing’s OpenSky will be just one of the many applications that will exist to enable drone operators to safely navigate the sky. While each USSP will rest on the foundational principles of operation and safety set by regulators, future air traffic management solutions will be developed and optimized for the breadth of operations that unmanned aviation brings.

This approach also shifts the cost of infrastructure to industry and promotes common standards for operations on a global scale.

Wing has built a UTM System called OpenSky that is one of many UTM services that will help drone operators fly safely around the world

Modernising the European Sky

The opinion published last month is a practical step toward regulations that will allow the industry to grow in a safe, responsible way today, and lay the groundwork for supporting the volume and scale that is to come.

Like the FAA’s UTM Concept of Operations, we believe that EASA’s support for conflict detection through the flight authorisation service recognizes the ability of USSPs and the U-space ecosystem to enable safe operations today. By taking this pragmatic approach, this opinion lays the foundation for USSPs, like OpenSky, to begin integrating UAS in the European airspace while providing a path for innovation in U-space and drone operations in the future.

We believe the EASA framework is guided by the right foundational beliefs, we support the outlined approach to airspace regulation, and look forward to working with regulators, lawmakers and member state representatives to refine both this initial framework in the coming months and the more detailed rules to come in the years ahead.

Wing has built a drone delivery company that currently operates in Finland, Australia, and the United States

About Wing

Wing’s perspective on U-space is informed by our experience with drone delivery services as a safer, faster and cleaner alternative to ground delivery. Since 2012, Wing has successfully completed over 100,000 flights across North America, Europe, and Australia, including thousands of deliveries to customers. Drone delivery is among a range of commercial drone applications that, at scale, promise to make a profoundly positive impact on local economies, environments and public health and safety.

"For the benefits of sky-based delivery to expand, we need to enable an airspace system that will allow unmanned technology to thrive and scale."

In order to realize these transformative effects, Wing is invested in building technology, creating standards and investing in research that will support the air traffic management ecosystem of the future. Wing’s UTM service, OpenSky, has been demonstrated worldwide through work with the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States, Switzerland’s U-space Implementation Program, France’s U-space Together Program, and is currently a part of the UTM ecosystem created by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in Australia,

These real-world experiences are helping to promote a safe, open, and secure airspace for all users, and continue to shape our vision for the future of U-space.