U-space steps up to PODIUM

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The SESAR 2020 PODIUM project will demonstrate Unmanned aircraft system Traffic Management (UTM) services, procedures and technologies at four operational sites in Denmark, France and the Netherlands throughout 2018 and 2019. It supports U-space, the European Commission’s vision for the safe, secure and efficient handling of drone traffic and a key enabler for the growing drone market to generate economic and societal benefits.

The Proving Operations of Drones with Initial UTM (PODIUM) project has been selected by the European Commission to proceed to the grant preparation phase. The work will be performed by a consortium led by EUROCONTROL and comprising Airbus, DSNA, DELAIR, Drones Paris Region, INAS, Naviair, NLR, Orange and Unifly. Third parties, including many drone operators, will complete the expertise of the consortium.

Integra Aerial Services (INAS), the Danish drone service provider, shall lead the work package dedicated to test and validation activities in Denmark, in cooperation with NAVIAIR and UAS Denmark. Most of the activities will take place at HCA Odense airport and around the city of Odense. Bringing its unique operational and technical expertise and systems, INAS will operate small and medium fixed wing and rotorcraft drones, in VLOS and BVLOS conditions, making best use of the airspace and infrastructure offered by HCA airport.

PODIUM will perform four complementary large-scale demonstrations – with over 185 drone flights – at Odense in Denmark, Bretigny and Toulouse in France, and Eelde in the Netherlands. UTM solutions will be demonstrated for visual line of sight (VLOS) and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone flights. The scope covers very low level operations in rural and urban areas, in the vicinity of airports, in uncontrolled and controlled airspace, and in mixed environments with manned aviation.

The project will highlight the important role of UTM in providing a mutual traffic situational awareness for the involved local actors – including air traffic management (ATM) – as a means to facilitate their day to day drone management. PODIUM will contribute to de-risking the operational and industrial deployment of UTM by demonstrating a comprehensive web based UTM system, using tracking systems based on Mode-S, L-Band and GSM networks.

Drafted by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, the U-space blueprint foresees a progressive deployment of U-space linked to four blocks of services and technologies: foundation services (U1), initial services (U2), advanced services (U3) and full services (U4). The PODIUM project will demonstrate the service levels U1, U2 and some limited U3 services, with the aim to validate its UTM solution to technology readiness level (TRL) 7 (corresponding to system prototype demonstration in operational environment).

PODIUM is expected to be formally kicked-off in January 2018, starting with a survey of UTM users to collect their needs and priorities. An advisory board with a broad range of stakeholders is being set up to guide the consortium. Preparatory work and flight trials will be performed throughout 2018 and 2019, leading to the issue of a final report with conclusions and recommendations on deployment in late 2019.

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