To unlock the true potential of the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) market, stakeholders need to break a series of entangled challenges. Today, in the absence of UAS regulations, the development of solutions is risky and expensive for industry, and essentially aimed at military applications. As a result, the UAS market is small and its impact on European industry is limited. Also, there is no improvement in UAS social acceptance, including a lack of political willingness to develop regulations. While this vicious circle is what is preventing the development of a civil UAS market alongside the existing military UAS market, it is also a great opportunity for Europe to take leadership and to secure an advantageous position in what is predicted by many UAS market studies to be a large and sustainable market with spin-offs into manned aviation, space and other high-tech markets.
The overall objective of ULTRA is to develop a civil UAS Master Plan that will break this vicious circle in order to:
- Unlock the true potential of the UAS market by addressing civil applications that are not systematically addressed today and
- Ensure that European industry plays a leading role at an international level in the development of UAS solutions.
The civil UAS Master Plan will build upon all relevant prior work (including the recommendations of the EU UAS Panel), and will leverage existing regulations and infrastructures in order to enable deployment of specific civil UAS applications within the next 5 years. The Master Plan will also highlight regulations and infrastructures that need to be developed in order to completely unlock the civil UAS market within the next 10-15 years, and will articulate the impact of a civil UAS market on European industry and quality of life.
To achieve this objective, ULTRA will employ the following high level approach:
- ULTRA includes world-recognized experts covering all UAS stakeholders, i.e. manufacturers, regulators, ANSPs, customers and research labs. Manufacturers will enable solutions, regulators and ANSPs will ensure that solutions are safe, customers will validate that solutions satisfy their needs and finally research labs will ensure promotion of innovative concepts. ULTRA will also seek the active involvement of EASA, EUROCONTROL and the NAAs (i.e. the regulators) in the document review process and in workshops.
- There is a strong emphasis on a coordinated, step-by-step and pragmatic approach to civil UAS insertion in order to deploy specific civil UAS
Unlocking civil unmanned aerial vehicles market
An EU-funded project has developed a comprehensive set of recommendations for the incremental insertion of light remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in European airspace.
While the exploitation of unmanned aerial vehicles for military applications has grown exponentially in recent years, the same trend has not been followed by the civil sector. The civil RPAS market is small and its impact on European airspace industry is limited. This is partly due to the absence of an RPAS-friendly sky policy, delaying the integration of RPAS in the European airspace.
To redress this imbalance, the 'Unmanned aerial systems in European airspace' (http://ultraconsortium.eu/ (ULTRA)) project was funded by the EU to provide recommendations for the potential insertion of unmanned aerial systems in the air transport system. During its 18-month lifetime, a consortium of 12 organisations from across Europe reviewed all aspects related to RPAS.
The main objectives were to formulate a master plan based on existing infrastructures for the incremental insertion of civil RPAS (with operating mass up to 150 kg) in the European airspace by 2017. On the other hand, specific recommendations were provided for developing a business case for selected uses of RPAS in innovation applications, with the objective to accelerate the integration. The ULTRA partners also aimed to lay the groundwork to unlock the full potential of the civil RPAS market in the next 10-15 years.
To address these objectives, the project was organised into five work packages addressing the regulatory and certification base, the adaptation of existing infrastructures, safety issues, the social impact as well as the economic effects on European airspace industry. Through the definition of four business cases, the work in each aspect of RPAS was focused on 'quick win' scenarios.
Nine technical reports addressing the different aspects covered in the ULTRA project were ultimately produced along with the final report. In the latter, the research work conducted is described against all developments that have occurred in the light RPAS domain since this sub-set of unmanned aerial vehicles was first introduced.
The ULTRA project proved to be challenging but also fruitful within the constraints posed by the rapidly evolving light RPAS market. Extended debate on a number of issues between the members of the large and varied consortium led to more robust results and concrete recommendations.
The technical reports can be accessed via the http://ultraconsortium.eu/ (ULTRA project website), which also provides a detailed description of the consortium and other material related to the project results.