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Enabling drone operations in France: focus on the French U-ELCOME cluster

Mar 12. 2024  Positioned as a key player in aviation, Thales brings its expertise to the drone ecosystem to achieve the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, in other words, drones) and urban air mobility (UAM) platforms into the skies. Thales is dedicated to developing solutions that facilitate increasingly complex drone operations by providing equipment and services to drone manufacturers and operators. Through its involvement in various projects, Thales actively contributes to the advancement of air safety, notably through its contribution in the U-ELCOME project.

U-ELCOME Initiative: Welcoming a new era in urban air mobility

The U-ELCOME initiative is dedicated to the integration of digital and physical infrastructures for safe drone integration into the airspace, showcasing specific solutions defined by SESAR the European research and innovation structure (Single European Sky ATM Research). SESAR in an institutionalised European partnership between private and public sector partners set up to accelerate through research and innovation the delivery of the Digital European Sky. The U-ELCOME project focuses primarily on the implementation of U-space services.

U-space is a set of new services relying on a high level of digitization and automation of functions and specific procedures for large number of unmanned aircraft operating beyond visual line of sight. All types of airspace, whether controlled or not, urban or rural, can be designated as "U-space” mainly composed of three pillars.

  • An airspace designated as U-space airspace, mainly used by drones, accessible to manned aircraft under certain conditions.
  • The provision in the U-Space of standardized digital services for drone operators, provided by certified U-space Service Providers (USSP).
  • A Common Information Services (CIS) acting as single point of truth and providing essential data to USSPs for the use of U-space services and traffic within these areas.

Among the standardized digital services, U-ELCOME focuses on U1 and U2 phases, as defined by the U-space CORUS CONOPS, a European project that define UTM CONOPS (Concept Of Operations), highlight risks and propose solutions to European regulatory bodies.

In the U1 phase, foundational U-space services are established. These services aim to simplify the identification of drones and operators, disseminate aeronautical information related to drones, and enhance drone operations, particularly in areas with low manned traffic. Key services during this phase include electronic registration (e-registration), drone Aeronautical Information Management (AIM), and geo-awareness.

The U2 phase offers U-space initial services supporting the safe management of "beyond visual line of sight" (BVLOS) operations, connecting with conventional air traffic management. Its deployment aims to expand operational reach, including controlled airspace, offering network identification, emergency management, strategic conflict detection and resolution, weather information, tracking, flight authorization, conformance monitoring, traffic information, legal recording, and procedural interfacing with ATC.

The U-ELCOME project intends to showcase how these U1 and U2 services can interact with existing ATM systems and with each other across diverse operational settings. The demonstrations aim to simulate common missions for business and civil authority purposes, such as medical and goods deliveries, inspection flights, and aerial work in urban and sub-urban environments, both in controlled and uncontrolled airspace. Additionally, the project will collaborate closely with EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) and other international and national bodies to contribute to the standardization/harmonization and regulatory requirements for proposed U-space services and architectures.

Thales drone solutions streamline drone traffic management for safer and more efficient integration of drones into airspace

The ScaleFlyt Platform is a digital platform that enables complex drone operations at scale through trusted mission and flight planning, record keeping, risk assessment and management tools. This solution can generate a digital form for requesting flight authorization to the unmanned traffic management (UTM) deployed in the flight area.

The UTM, powered by TopSky - UAS, manages mission authorizations through automatic deconfliction. Thales's TopSky - UAS notably ensures interoperability with various drone operations management and planning platforms, including the ScaleFlyt Platform. Thales TopSky – UAS is a cloud-based drone traffic management platform that facilitates efficient flight request processes and expedites drone access to airspace.

The seamless transmission of drone-related data to TopSky - UAS occurs directly through the ScaleFlyt Remote ID that acts as a tracker. The symbiosis of these systems ensures a safe and secure insertion into airspace, emphasizing the significance of their collective role in enhancing overall operational efficiency.

The U-ELCOME project, driven by a visionary approach, is emerging as a pioneering force in reshaping the landscape of unmanned aviation and urban air mobility. With a commitment to enhancing air safety and actively contributing to the evolution of U-space services, Thales, through initiatives like U-ELCOME, continues to play a pivotal role in advancing the integration of drones into our airspace. The collaborative efforts and demonstrations showcased in the U-ELCOME project mark a crucial step in the evolution towards standardized and regulated U-space services. Thales's dedication to innovation and collaboration positions the company at the forefront of the ever-evolving unmanned aviation landscape, fostering a future where drones seamlessly coexist with traditional air traffic.


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