With the further enhancement of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and air taxis in the rapidly growing drone market comes the need for the evolution of technologies and framework conditions for their safe coexistence with manned aircraft.

The SESAR JU project “GOF 2.0 Integrated Urban Airspace Validation”, with a consortium of 13 members, will focus on the safe, secure, and sustainable integration of unmanned aerial vehicle and air taxi operations in urban airspace and kicked-off at the end of January.

The follow-up to the SESAR JU Gulf of Finland (GOF) U-space project, which successfully demonstrated the safe airspace integration of unmanned aerial vehicles in summer 2019, will go a step further and test unmanned aerial vehicle flights specifically in urban airspace over the next two years.

The integration of unmanned traffic management (UTM) into air traffic management (ATM) systems was already the focus of the SESAR JU research project GOF U-space, which successfully tested Uspace services in seven advanced live trials with 11 unmanned and manned aircraft operators. The trials, both in controlled and uncontrolled airspace, and below as well as above 500ft in urban, rural, and maritime environments, demonstrated that an integrated environment where manned and unmanned aviation share the same data will improve situational awareness and safety.

The work leading up to the advanced flight trials highlighted the importance of building a scalable Uspace architecture and ensured that the technical environment relies on international standards using system wide information management (SWIM) principles. The GOF U-space project also underlined the fact that it is equally important to ensure that the market is interoperable and open, with authority oversight to enable easy sharing of safety-related information.

Building on the key learnings and results of this project, SESAR JU GOF 2.0 now intends to safely, securely, and sustainably demonstrate operational validity of serving combined unmanned aerial systems (UAS), electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), and manned operations in a unified, dense urban airspace using existing ATM and U-space services and systems. Both ATM and U-space communities depend extensively on the provision of timely, relevant, accurate, and quality-assured digital information to collaborate and make informed decisions.

The demonstrations will focus on the validation of the GOF 2.0 architecture for highly automated real-time separation assurance in dense airspace, including precision weather and telecom networks for air-ground communication. This will significantly contribute to understanding how the safe integration of UTM and other commercial drone operations into ATM airspace can be implemented without degrading safety, security, or disrupting current airspace operations.

GOF 2.0 is an important enabler for the further development of the drone market and will deliver the technical components (services, software, competencies, practices) required to cost-efficiently operate autonomous and semi-autonomous drones beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) in the shared airspace.

This is made possible by repurposing already available ATM commercial off-the-shelf components and integrating the latest U-space technology. Furthermore, it will nurture acceptance of drones as part of the new mobility mix, including Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), all airspace users, regulatory authorities, and ultimately the flying public.

The GOF 2.0 consortium, consisting of 13 scientific and commercial partners from the drone and aviation industry, will use its expertise and technology to ensure safe flight operations in all classes of airspace in order to provide all airspace users with fair and efficient access to the shared airspace. The GOF 2.0 project is one of several projects managed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking that are dedicated to U-space, the European Commission’s initiative for the safe and secure integration of drones into the airspace.