Unique first-of-their-kind drone test flights at Groningen Airport Eelde

Last Tuesday 4 June a series of tests with drones were conducted at Groningen Airport Eelde as part of the PODIUM project of SESAR Horizon 2020. PODIUM stands for Proving Operations of Drones with Initial UTM.

During 2018 and 2019, PODIUM will perform demonstrations of unmanned air traffic management services at a limited number of operational sites in Denmark, France and the Netherlands. Groningen Airport Eelde is one of these sites. In order to ensure full safety as well as an ultimate testing climate, take-off and arrival runways shall temporarily be closed during testing days, thus – literally – providing all parties involved the space necessary to conduct their demonstrations and tests.

Drones have many possible uses. They have the potential to bring enormous added value to our daily lives in many areas, such as agriculture, the media, maintenance, delivery, surveillance and inspection. However, drones are also small and difficult to detect. Left unmanaged, increasing drone traffic can easily pose a threat to bystanders and manned aviation.

The Netherlands as a test location
The NLR (the Netherlands Aerospace Centre) – responsible for drone flight trials in the Netherlands – shall, in that capacity, conduct all flights together with partners such as EuroControl and the LVNL (the Dutch Air Traffic Authority). The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management – the authority, which in 2018 designated Groningen Airport Eelde as the single airport in the Netherlands, where drone test flights are to be conducted – shall as such also be invited to attend testing days.

DroneHub GAE – one of the Northern Netherlands partners – hosted the abovementioned drone flight day-event in Eelde. In addition, OmniDrones and Vliegend.nl – partners from the Dutch Province of Drenthe – introduced software, which allows live-feed connection with drones. Thus, for instance, a control tower can directly see where a drone is and what the drone itself is observing.

In respect to the latter, Drone Radio Research – another local company – took the opportunity to test their drone detection system, which in the future is expected to be able to detect drones from kilometres away.

In order to prevent drones from posing a threat to society, legislation is necessary. U-Space is a European set of protocols and technologies – in development – designed to secure safe access to airspace for drones. To this cause, preliminary work and flight trials will be performed throughout 2018 and 2019, based on which a final report with conclusions and recommendations shall be issued by the end of 2019.

Managing drone traffic: mutual situational awareness
Key aspect within the PODIUM project is the use of software and simulations for managing drone traffic. The focus in this context lies on mutual situational awareness, which allows drones to be aware of other air traffic around them and, vice versa, local air traffic and air traffic controllers to know where the drones are.

source: DroneHub GAE

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