The European aviation community currently exchanges views on how, and under which conditions, drones can offer new services and applications going beyond traditional aviation and offers the promise to perform existing services in a more affordable and environmentally friendly way. Indeed, these truly transformational technologies will help create promising new opportunities in Europe, offering sustainable jobs and new prospects for growth both for the manufacturing industry in particular for SMEs and for future users of drones in all sectors of society. The demand to operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) over long ranges is drastically increasing, due to their potential for a wide range of civil applications for the benefit of European citizens and industry. However the regulation regarding the use of RPAS in civil airspace is not yet ready to enable RPAS BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) operations. Indeed, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) are currently not allowed to fly in non-segregated civil airspace and, beyond military missions, are not yet widely used for civil and commercial applications.
SKYOPENER will enable the use of RPAS for civilian applications by contributing to the roadmap for the integration of civil RPAS into non-segregated airspace. In this context, the use EGNOS and GALILEO offers a major opportunity to provide enhanced navigation services in terms of integrity and positioning accuracy.
SKYOPENER will develop a system and operational processes that will reduce all categories of risks associated with RPAS and allow an ANSP (Air Navigation Service Provider) to manage Very Low Level (VLL) RPAS operations.
The project will also demonstrate two innovative applications: e-TOD (electronic-Terrain Obstacle Database) and the surveillance of critical infrastructure that both benefit from EGNSS (European Global Navigation Satellite System) for measurement geolocation and datation (time synchronization) which represent major business opportunities.
The SKYOPENER consortium has brought together a perfect group of experts and industries for this global approach which requires to fully master global risk analysis. The Swiss ANSP Skyguide, a partner of Skyopener together with the Insurance Company Global Aerospace as a member of the advisory board will play a significant role. Moreover, the consortium gathers technology leaders in such areas as in Navigation, Satcom, ATM and business processes to ensurethat the detailed objectives are derived from their global approach.
The detailed objectives of SKYOPENER project are derived as follow:
- Improve the reliability and security of navigation systems used on RPAS
SKYOPENER will use GALILEO signals as a complement to GPS to improve the reliability of the overall navigation. This will improve the positioning robustness and accuracy and mitigate against the risk of GPS signal loss & collision.
- Use SatCom as a compliment to GNSS to increase situational awareness of RPAS and to enhance traffic surveillance systems.
Risk of collision is reduced thanks to RPAS SatCom transmission of navigational information to an ATM gateway dedicated to VLL RPAS operation management. This will also improve the situation awareness at Remote Pilot (RP) level and for ATM operators which will mitigate against risks of human error.
- Use SatCom to increase the reliability of the RPAS communication systems
Radio communication systems on board RPA usually provide 80-90% availability. SatCom systems provide much better availability, typically 99%. SKYOPENER will develop a system that will significantly enhance the reliability and the availability of the CNPC (Control of Non-Payload Communication). It will combine radio and one satellite link system with hot redundancy, thus increasing availability up to 99.9%. Loss of link will be significantly reduced typically from 12 minutes to 7 seconds at most for a 2 hours flight.
- Develop security systems to mitigate against human error and security threats.
SKYOPENER will develop a data encryption device that will provide a more secure C2 (Command & Control) link against cyber-attack like anti-jamming and anti-spoofing to mitigate against security risk and potential piracy. We will also develop a means of identification of the operator/ owner: electronic chip on the RPA to mitigate the risk of human error or irresponsibility. Additionally a more secure waveform for the communication system will protect the C2 link allowing RPAS with communication links more resistant to jamming.
- Develop more contingency systems on-board and on-ground systems that mitigate against the loss of command and control or human error.
The SKYOPENER RPA has the legacy “return home” to mitigate against the risk of losing the command and control. An additional contingency plan will be implemented: geo-fencing features that will create a flight path with clearly defined geographical boundaries.
- Develop an ATM system dedicated to RPA VLL operations with interactive surveillance features – UAV Traffic Management (UTM)
SKYOPENER will develop a surveillance system dedicated to RPAS operations at VLL. The ANSP will receive data from the RPA to show the aircraft’s position in real time, and will combine it with other data (Mode S Transponder) coming from other aircraft and will share with the RPS the situational awareness close to the RPA. Such a surveillance system will be used for allowing RPA to fly BVLOS and BLOS. The RPS can also show terrain, weather and airspace boundaries in real time.
- Improve information processing and presentation on RPAS to reduce the risk of human error.
SKYOPENER will improve the user interface at the level of the Remote Pilot in the RPS; through developing a more user-friendly interface for the pilot, which can reduce the risk of human error or irresponsibility.
- Develop a RPAS mission payload and software package for e-TOD services and linear surveillance operations BLOS.
SKYOPENER will develop an integrated mission payload with LiDAR, high definition cameras, direct geo-referencing with GNSS, in order to provide accurate information about obstacles to e-TOD services geographical boundaries, including vegetation, and failures of linear critical infrastructure. It will also develop a software package and industrialised business process that will collect and process data of the mission payload. The software package will be developed in order to supply processed data for e-TOD services as well as for linear surveillance operations BLOS.
The results of the trial are assessed and inform a development plan for the commercialization of the system.
Until recently, RPAS have been used mainly in support of military operations, largely in segregated airspace. RPAS operators are now seeking greater freedom of access to airspace, and as a result they will increasingly interact with Air Navigation Service Provider. Accepting a large number of RPAS flying at Very Low Level into ANSP systems poses many challenges and integration of RPAS in non-segregated airspace is of special interest. SKYOPENER will have an impact on the safe integration of RPAS into the ANSP system, in combination with other airspace users, through demonstrating the system’s ability to act and respond in the same way as for manned aircraft.
SKYOPENER will have an impact on the management by ANSP of the increasing number of requests to fly RPAS in non-segregated airspace by developing the elements required in order to operate RPAS specific operations as described in the EASA documents  “Concept of operations for drones”.
- SKYOPENER will drive towards an advanced and promising surveillance solution combining EGNSS and SATCOM
- SKYOPENER will contribute to the definition of key components of RPAS CNS system and RPS as well.
SKYOPENER will demonstrate added value of specific RPAS operations through the e-TOD use case for the improvement of navigation services for the overall civil aviation. Finally, SKYOPENER will impact research work in the field of LiDAR
> Industrial impact
SKYOPENER is impacting a significant number of RPAS stakeholders: RPAS manufacturers, RPAS operators, ANSPs and the customers of RPAS operators such as critical infrastructure operators. For instance railroad operators or airports will benefit of the ability of an RPAS to offer new services and applications going beyond those offered by traditional aviation and at more attractive prices. Existing services can be made less expensive and more environmentally friendly.
> Societal impact
SKYOPENER will significantly reduce the risk of specific operations. The resulting benefit is to enable operation in locations requiring high data rate services that would be cost prohibitive for manned aircrafts. A system that will allow RPAS to fly safely will allow the provision of services in areas where a manned aircraft would present a risk to life, e.g. for missions such as humanitarian relief, border patrol and disaster scenarios, risk and thus cost could be reduced meeting market needs, particularly in countries unable to meet the cost imperatives in emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
> Commercial impact:
The acceleration of the roadmap towards the operation of RPAS in civilian airspace will have a huge impact on the service applications that can be offered by RPAS. Systems that enable RPAS to fly safely, in compliance with regulation will significantly reduce the cost of insurance premiums for RPAS operators. The reduced cost of insurance will make the RPAS applications more commercially attractive and widely used.
The lower cost of operating RPAS in comparison to manned aircraft will open their use to a range of markets having a positive impact on the RPAS and aviation industry of Europe. The SKYOPENER system will accelerate the implementation of the European roadmap and contribute to the European RPAS Strategy by giving European industry and commerce a head start in the international market resulting in increased jobs, taxes and the creation of more RPAS-related enterprises
SKYOPENER will develop a complete and scalable system to manage the full operational process that starts with an initial mission request prepared by the final customer, and that ensures the management of air traffic during all phases of VLL, below 500 feet Above Ground Level (AGL) RPAS operations. SKYOPENER will take into account the European roadmap, by focusing on RPAS that are less than 25-30 kilos since they are the first platforms that can be integrated into the non-segregated airspace. Those platforms are specifically designed for civilian applications
The newly developed system will be the result of the integration of a range of components which will innovatively combine technologies such as EGNSS, SatCom, and security features such as a secure waveform.