NLR Leads European Defence Project for Integration of Drones Into Civil Airspace

NLR recently started working on the European TRAWA project, intended to develop standards for so-called ‘detect and avoid’ (DAA) systems on board drones. These systems ensure that a drone pilot can detect other aircraft in a timely manner, so that he/she can execute an avoidance manoeuvre where necessary to prevent a possible collision. The TRAWA project is being conducted on behalf of the European Defence Agency (EDA) and is funded by the European Commission. The pilot project should contribute to the development and management of a large-scale European programme for defence research starting in 2021. NLR is leading a consortium which also includes DLR (Germany), Deep Blue (Italy), Tony Henley Consulting (UK) and EuroUSC-Italia (Italy). The budget for the project is EUR 433,000 and it will take 18 months to complete.

A drone pilot must always maintain a certain separation distance between his/her drone and other air traffic. Currently this so-called ‘well clear distance’, is subjective. As part of the TRAWA project, exact separation distances will be laid down. In addition response times will be determined, i.e. the time a drone pilot needs to respond to detection and to initiate an avoidance manoeuvre. The well clear distances required and the response times will be converted to requirements for the distance at which DAA systems on board drones must be able to detect other aircraft, and those requirements will ultimately determine which types of drone will be allowed into civil airspace and which will not. The standards will be determined in line with the EUROCAE ED78a standardization process and with the EASA regulations which are currently being developed.

The expectation is that after the standards have been laid down, military drones will be the first to make use of civil airspace, followed later on by civil drones. The TRAWA project will result in guidelines for manufacturers of DAA systems and is also important for drone pilots, pilots of unmanned aircraft and air traffic controllers. NLR was awarded this contract because of its extensive knowledge of the integration of drones into civil airspace, and particularly its expertise in detect and avoid technology, drone certification and drone pilot training, and its familiarity with stakeholders of the drone industry. NLR has its own drone test centre with its own secure airspace near the Dutch village of Marknesse (Flevoland province).

Source: NLR - Netherlands Aerospace Centre
Date: Apr 7, 2017