On Tuesday, 5th of September, our Industry Update addressed the development of a U-space Common Information Service (CIS) in the Netherlands and the possible use of CIS outside of U-space airspace. Wilbert Ritsema, Projectmanager U-Space at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Watermanagement explained the technical, operational, regulatory, and safety aspects of integrating unmanned aircraft into the airspace, focusing on how U-space and CIS are playing a crucial role in paving the way for this integration. In this article we highlighted some of the questions Ritsema answered.
In EASA-plans the backbone of U-space will be formed by a Common Information Service (CIS). This layer is intended to ensure that service providers and users of U-space can exchange information in a standardized manner. Think of it as a kind of internet, but specifically designed for U-space data streams. In his presentation Ritsema explained how CIS is taking shape in the Netherlands. Moderator Munish Kurana, also Senior Manager of Eurocontrol, ATM/UTM Business Development, asked Ritsema how CIS can help to get to an integrated airspace in the future. Ritsema answered that the digital transition is an important development. “But the most difficult part is to make sure that all the existing aviation, the existing airspace users are also able to fly in a more digital environment. Most recreational pilots still fly in a ‘see and avoid’ mode. To make them work in a digital environment is a very interesting challenge”
Al lot of viewers of the Industry Update asked questions about the so-called extended CIS. Because although that will undoubtedly increase the safety of both unmanned and manned aviation, it will also increase the costs for General Aviation. Ritsema said he already consulted general aviation about it. “A lot of the people in general aviation that were at this meeting said ‘well, we don't have a problem with sharing our information, our position data or whatever that is needed in such an environment via a digital way’. But, their worry is what will be the cost, because they already had to invest in their aircraft.” It immediately led to the question who will fund CIS in the Netherlands. Ritsema was clear. “We have to do it together with the partners in the unmanned and manned aviation sector, because we all have to develop knowledge and implementations to learn from it and to to set up this ecosystem. But in the beginning, most probably from a government perspective, we have to pay the costs for setup. And later on this might slowly change into partial and in the end, full cost recovery by the users of the airspace.”
The service providers connecting to this CIS include not only existing air traffic control organizations (referred to in jargon as air navigation service providers, ANSPs) but also newcomers focusing on providing U-space services to drone operators, known as U-space service providers (USSPs). These parties can be both commercial and public in nature. Ultimately, member states will determine how U-space airspace will be organized and who will be allowed to offer services. To prevent conflicts of interest, a USSP cannot also offer CIS services (or vice versa). Therefore, these functions must be performed by different parties. Ritsema explained that in The Netherlands the developers of U-Space and CIS foresee that “the Common Information Service will be a public service. We do not expect that a common information service provider will be a commercial company. And this also outlines how we look at who will be the service provider. That could be air traffic control, but we also look at other organizations that work in mobility and with data. Because mobility and urban air mobility and the management of that traffic in the future is also a way of mobility traffic management. It can be very interesting to learn from other domains of mobility. We are currently assessing multiple scenarios on who could be the best choice. But we have not decided yet.”