Exploring the Safe and Fair Integration of Drones with Manned Aircraft
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Exploring the Safe and Fair Integration of Drones with Manned Aircraft

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Concepts like MaaS (mobility as a service) have been explored in great detail at recent industry events where the biggest companies in the space discussed a future in which getting onto an air-taxi will feel as natural as taking a bus or getting onto an airplane. As exciting as that is, embedding this new concept of mobility into society at large is completely dependent on addressing the safe integration of drones into the airspace. That very topic was explored in a recent article on the CANSO (Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation) website and in a joint session with Boeing during the Amsterdam Drone week 2018. CANSO appreciates that the EASA’s High-Level Conference on Drones takes place during the ADW and is set to again in 2019.

CANSO is the global voice of air traffic management (ATM) worldwide, and their efforts to improve air navigation services (ANS) on the ground and in the air will directly enable the kind of interconnected environment. Dr. Eduardo García González is the CANSO Manager European ATM Coordination and Safety, and has been keenly focused on the short and long term ramifications of this endeavor. He coordinates CANSO positions on technical, operations and safety matters. He manages CANSO’s involvement with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); EUROCONTROL; SESAR JU; the Technical Sub Group of the Industry Consultation Body; and ICAO EUR/NAT.

Dr. Garcia has received numerous awards for his work in this space, including the SESAR Distinguished Service Award for sustained outstanding performance in the HALA! (Higher Automation Levels in Air Traffic Management) Research Network by the SESAR Scientific Committee as well as the “Derek George Astridge Safety in Aerospace Award” and the “Safety Award in Mechanical Engineering” by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers UK. In this in-depth interview, we asked him about his organization’s focus, the We Are All One in the Sky initiative, how he’s hoping to see things further develop with the integration of manned and unmanned aircraft in 2019 and much more.

Jeremiah Karpowicz: For anyone not familiar with CANSO, can you tell us a little bit about your work to support almost 90 percent of world air traffic?

Exploring the Safe and Fair Integration of Drones with Manned Aircraft

Dr. Eduardo García González: CANSO brings the world’s air navigation service providers (ANSPs), leading industry innovators and air traffic management (ATM) specialists together to share knowledge, develop best practice and shape the future for secure and seamless airspace.

The purpose of CANSO is to create value for its Members by being the global and regional voice of ATM and facilitating and supporting improvements in ATM performance worldwide.

CANSO’s workgroups and task forces bring together experts and innovators from around the globe to discuss key issues in ATM, share experiences and create best practice guidance and reports.

CANSO’s regions help support CANSO’s global vision of seamless and harmonised airspace globally, implementing global policies and initiatives at a regional level and developing tailored regional plans and solutions to improve ATM performance at a local level.

What can you tell us about CANSO’s regional initiatives in Europe? Is the organization focused on any initiatives beyond Europe?

Traffic growth, increased automation and safely integrating new airspace users, such as drone operators, are key areas CANSO is working to address at both a global and regional level. To do this CANSO works closely with its industry partners IATA (airlines) and ACI (airports), stakeholders and regulators – including ICAO, the United Nations agency which sets the standards and recommended practices for the safe and orderly development of civil aviation. Together, we develop strategies, policies, standards and best practices that enhance the performance of aviation worldwide.

In Europe, CANSO works in close coordination with the European Commission and Network Manager on initiatives such as the Single European Sky (SES), seeking to reform and harmonise European air traffic management, champion innovation, improve performance and prepare for the future needs of European airspace in terms of capacity, safety, efficiency and environmental impact.

When it comes to drones, CANSO’s task is to ensure that in the future, ATM enables airspace users of all types – manned and unmanned – to fly from point A to point B, safely, efficiently, consistently, predictably, cost-effectively, using optimal routes and altitude and without delays. For the ATM system to support this, it needs to be a user-focused, harmonised and seamless, ready to take on new forms of airborne operations and working in close cooperation with all stakeholders.

For example, CANSO has developed advice on the latest developments in unmanned operations for ANSPs; ANSP Considerations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operations. It has also been instrumental in cross-industry initiatives to support the safe integration of drones - We Are All One in the Sky.

I want to come back to your We Are All One in the Sky initiative, but before that, can you give us a few examples of the types of organizations you work with and what sorts of projects and initiatives you’re working with them around?

At a global level, CANSO works closely with its industry partners IATA (airlines) and ACI (airports), stakeholders and ICAO, to support the development of global aviation, and improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and safety of operations.

At a European level, CANSO works closely with the European Commission, EUROCONTROL, Network Manager, and European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), alongside European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment (EUROCAE), to address policy, standards, and industry coordination on a regional level.

Through initiatives such as the SESAR Joint Undertaking and SESAR Deployment Manager and strong industry collaboration between ANSPs, airports and airlines, our members are closely involved in work to develop and deploy new technological solutions that will improve air traffic management performance. CANSO is also actively involved in the European Commission-sponsored Industry Consultation Body, which brings together a broad range of voices to work on a common industry vision for the future of European airspace, as well as to support on technical aspects of ATM.

What can you tell us about your responsibilities to coordinate CANSO positions on technical, operations and safety matters? What does that coordination look like on a practical level?

CANSO is very unique association as CANSO best practice and industry guidance are developed by the Members for Members, through close coordination and the sharing of experience and expertise.

In my role as Manager Europe ATM Coordination and Safety, I bring together the work of CANSO’s European safety, technology, regulations, drones, cybersecurity groups, which give me an incredible opportunity to work with and learn from industry experts from around the world. It is also my responsibility to represent CANSO at European institutions and other stakeholders’ associations, championing the ATM perspective and the vital role that the industry plays in the aviation value chain.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to sort through at CANSO?

The CANSO Europe region represents a diverse and complex network of ANSPs, each with very different requirements and challenges to overcome. From day to day, our work to support the development of ATM in the region (and beyond) can range from enhancing interoperability, tackling cybersecurity and integrating drones, to implementing performance-based navigation (PBN), space-based automatic dependent surveillance (ADS-B), safety assessments, regulations and Just Culture. While the issues and opportunities are often diverse and wide-ranging, calling for a variety of solutions, this has given me a strong understanding of ATM, its needs and expectations, and integral role in supporting aviation.

Have there been specific challenges when it comes to enabling new entrants into the airspace?

The ATM industry’s primary task is the safe and efficient separation and flow of all aircraft – manned, remote and unmanned. Safely integrating these new entrants into our already crowded skies and ensuring equitable access to airspace for all is therefore one of the greatest tasks facing the transport industry today.

The key challenge is that UAS operations are developing daily, and new technologies continue to emerge. As such, CANSO’s work in this area is evolving over time. For example, some of the technical solutions (detect and avoid) and future concepts (UAS traffic management (UTM/U-Space)) identified are still being addressed.

CANSO, via its dedicated workgroups and industry network, is working alongside industry partners to embrace these challenges, and there is already a lot of work being undertaken by CANSO members to support drone operations and prepare for the future; from leading cross-industry initiatives to preparing guidance of members. What is vital is that all partners work together and the ATM community continues to research and develop the tools and procedures necessary to facilitate a safe, efficient, effective and truly integrated global airspace. A good example of collaboration is the U-Space Demonstrator Network, established by the European Commission, to share knowledge and strengthen U-space research and innovation in Europe.

CANSO members are actively contributing to this Network and are working with EUROCONTROL to develop a concept of operations for U-Space/UTM and address some important issues for the effective integration of UAS into airspace (e.g. UAS ATM airspace assessment, common altitude reference system and flight rules for UAS operations).

We should not forget that the future is not only about the integration of drones and eVTOLs/air taxis but also of commercial space vehicles, balloons, super-sonic flights. All these new entrants have different requirements and performances (for example, Thales’ Stratobus balloon needs two hours to ascend and six hours to descend). Safe and equitable integration will therefore remain a key priority for ANSPs in the future, requiring the simultaneous evolution of operations and safety best practice to meet the shifting demands of airspace users, the traveling public and commercial and humanitarian projects they serve.

You wrote an article about how ATM is addressing the safe integration of drones into airspace, which you said was paramount for society. Is that societal importance more about safety, brand new opportunities, or something else?

Safety is and will remain aviation’s number one priority. It is the cornerstone of secure, efficient and effective air transport, and enables the delivery of a wide range of economic and social benefits. Drones will revolutionise many aspects of everyday life, from urgent delivery of medical supplies to supporting police operations and search and rescue and the number of useful real-life applications grow by the day. And in the coming years, European citizens will live in smart cities, travelling door-to-door using autonomous vehicles and communicating using smart devices.

As the societal acceptance of automated technology grows, so will the use of drones in more and more congested airspace. It is paramount that we continue to integrate this technology with the safety of all of aviation in mind.

Tell us about your best practice guidance to air navigation service providers (ANSPs). Ultimately, what is the goal of this resource?

CANSO’s ANSP Considerations for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Operations addresses increasing demand on ATM by the introduction of UAS operations into airspace and considers solutions for safely accommodating these new entrants into airspace.

The target audience includes ATM and ANSP policy makers and management and staff, including those specifically responsible for ATM procedures. The objective is to raise awareness of UAS operations to ANSPs to inform them how UAS can be accommodated safely into ATM systems, and identify some of the issues that need to be addressed to safely achieve greater UAS integration in the future. Additionally, it highlights the assistance and UAS training materials available to CANSO ANSP members. The document is also designed to help regulators and policy makers in understanding the processes and procedures being considered and developed, and the implications for broader aviation operations.

You mentioned your We Are All One in the Sky initiative, and it outlines how your aviation partners are committed to working with relevant authorities and law enforcement agencies to protect the security of aircraft operations and facilitate the safe integration of drones. What makes this initiative so distinct and important?

Flying safely and securely at all levels and areas of airspace is the mission of CANSO and the entire industry. Europe has a strong, world-leading safety record, which CANSO and the wider industry have worked tirelessly to achieve. We want to bring this unique and unparalleled safety experience to the unmanned industry to ensure that it can grow safely and sustainably without impacting the safety of manned aviation. With this objective in mind and the knowledge that together we are stronger, a large list of European associations decided to join forces and enhance the cooperation between the industry, drone manufacturers and regulators to reduce the risks of drone operations.

Can you tell us a little bit about the 14 other manned aviation organizations that are part of this initiative? Are they all working with CANSO in a similar manner?

The We Are All One in the Sky initiative is a joint initiative among a range of aviation bodies. It is coordinated by IATA, European Cockpit Association (ECA) and CANSO but all of the members of this platform are fully engaged and actively contribute in its activities.

Of the eight areas that need urgent attention from European and national regulators in order to preserve the high levels of safety in European airspace and build a common framework for success, which do you see as being the biggest challenge?

All the points highlighted in our call represent an important challenge. In my view, one key enabler for the safe, secure and fair integration of potentially hundreds of thousands of drones into the aviation system is the development of UAS traffic management systems – U-space or UTM.

UTM/U-Space is expected to support UAS in all operational environments and all types of airspace starting from very low-level/VLL airspace. It will support all types of missions and may apply to all categories of UAS and users, and ensure a proper interface between the UAS world and manned aviation, ANSPs and other relevant authorities.

The evolution of UTM systems relies on greater automation and pace compared to conventional air traffic management evolution and there is a fundamental role for ANSPs to play in facilitating the emergence of this industry and ensuring it can exist safely alongside manned aviation.

UTM/U-Space systems must be interoperable with existing ATM systems and demonstrate that they provide an equivalent level of safety and compliance with the applicable and forthcoming rules. As with the current ATM system, a collaborative approach among all stakeholders is essential to ensure efficient and effective services.

ANSPs welcome this innovation process and are providing their knowhow and expertise, which has led to an outstanding level of safety over the last decades in their field of business. In many cases, ANSPs are already partnering with UTM technology providers, bringing together a variety of expertise to provide enhanced solutions that can benefit both manned and unmanned operations.

What kind of progress are you hoping to see this year when it comes to the safe and fair integration of drones into our skies?

I am looking forward to the next edition of the Amsterdam Drones Week when it is expected that EASA will present their proposal for the U-Space Regulatory Framework. It will be an important milestone to better understand the U-Space core elements, the required airspace classification and the scope of the U-Space. ANSPs have a critical role to play in enabling the safe integration of drones and we look forward to working with both manned and unmanned industries to help make this happen.

What’s my best next step if I want to learn more about or actively support CANSO’s work to promote the safe integration on drones?

To find out more about how CANSO is working to support the safe integration of drones and the initiatives and events available, please get in touch with the team, visit their website, or follow CANSO and CANSO Europe on Twitter.


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