The rapid growth of the drone industry has sparked the need for a comprehensive framework that ensures safe and sustainable drone operations in congested airspaces. In response to this demand, the BURDI project has been established as a collaborative effort between various stakeholders, including Unisphere, to implement the U-space framework in Belgium. This project aims to unleash the full potential of drone services by providing a real-life reference implementation of the U-space framework, integrating drones seamlessly into the airspace while ensuring safe integration into the airspace.
Enabling Safe Integration of Drones
The BURDI project aligns with the European U-space initiative, which seeks to create a scalable and harmonized framework for drone operations across the European Union. While the EU regulatory framework provides a solid regulatory foundation, implementing the U-space framework at the national level is crucial to facilitating the integration of drones in future dense airspace shared with manned aircraft. Recognizing this, the BURDI project serves as a vehicle for realizing the ambitions of applying the U-space framework in Belgium.
The BURDI project follows a collaborative approach involving both top-down and bottom-up decision-making processes. National and local stakeholders, including existing geo zone managers, are actively involved in shaping the implementation choices. Additionally, international expertise from organizations like EUROCONTROL enhances the project's validity and harmonization efforts. By employing a phased approach, starting with Early Adapter Areas, the project aims to validate and test the U-space implementation choices, enabling stakeholders to gain valuable experience while benefiting from international benchmarking.
Technical Implementation and Expertise
Implementing the U-space framework requires the development of dedicated U-space services and a cloud-based architecture to connect all stakeholders within the U-space environment. Unisphere, in collaboration with partners like Unifly, SkeyDrone, and skeyes, will play a vital role in building and implementing the U-space environment and corresponding services. The integration of Unifly’s UTM technology with SkeyDrone's regulatory experience will allow U-space and drone detection solutions to be scaled internationally. Unisphere's expertise will be leveraged in developing a U-Space-compliant weather information service, as well as an advanced weather service that will check weather conditions along the flight path and evaluate if the conditions are within the ConOps of the respective drone to ensure safe BVLOS flight operations.
Gradual Deployment and Testing
To ensure a smooth deployment and implementation, the BURDI project follows a phased approach. Initially, the project will concentrate on several high-interest Early Adapter Areas, where the U-space functionalities and components will be tested and validated. This incremental approach mitigates implementation risks and allows for continuous improvement based on lessons learned. By gradually extending the scope and testing the U-space functionalities, the project aims to achieve TRL 8, indicating a fully deployed and implemented U-space airspace.
The BURDI project stands as a significant initiative to implement the U-space framework in Belgium, unlocking the potential of drone services in a safe and sustainable manner. As the project progresses through phased deployment and testing, it paves the way for a flourishing drone market while fostering growth, job creation, and innovation in the European drone ecosystem. The BURDI project represents a crucial step toward harnessing the full potential of drones and establishing a solid foundation for the future of airspace managemet.
The 3-year project is co-funded by the European Union under the Connecting Europe Facility and supported by SESAR Joint Undertaking.