A group of drone operators have been selected to carry out a major project in Belgium that could shape the standardisation of drone services across Europe.
The SAFIR consortium (Safe and Flexible Integration of Initial U-space Services in a Real Environment), a pool of 13 public and private organisations, has been picked to demonstrate drone traffic management in Belgium.
Chosen by the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU), the SAFIR project will be located in two areas of Belgium: Sint-Truiden, where the Drone Test Centre of DronePort is located, and the larger Antwerp area, including the Port of Antwerp.
The network will aim to become a forum to share knowledge on how to keep drone operations safe, secure and green.
The goal of the SAFIR project is to contribute to the EU regulatory process for drones and drive forward the deployment of interoperable, harmonised and standardised drone services across Europe.
Officials behind the project have said the programme will focus on the so-called U-space, a system that connects all drones flying in the air and that makes them visible for authorities and citizens.
The SAFIR consortium consists of the following organisations: Unifly, Amazon Prime Air, Belgocontrol, DronePort, Proximus, the Port of Antwerp, Helicus, SABCA, Elia, High Eye, C-Astral, Tekever and Aveillant.
Marc Kegelaers, CEO from Unifly, the lead co-ordinator of the consortium, said: “While the consortium represents a broad range of use cases and services, we are united in one key aspect: an unyielding commitment to safety.
“We are excited about the innovations in the unmanned industry our group can bring to Europe. We will work diligently with our partners to ensure all operations are rooted in safe practices from day one.”
The timing for U-space is critical given the speed at which the market is growing. The aim is to have foundation U-space services in place by 2019.
The SAFIR project will demonstrate several U-services through the deployment of a multitude of drones. Simultaneously three main U-space service providers (USSP) will be controlling the airspace.
Johan Decuyper, CEO of Belgocontrol: “Belgocontrol is committed not only to its mission to ensure air traffic safety but also to our societal role of contributing to ecological goals, innovation, research, and economical evolutions. We are fully aware of the enormous potential of the drone sector and want to help develop it in Belgium and Europe in accordance with the safety of air traffic.”