The Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr, BMDV (Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport) recently published a report outlining a plan to create new U-space airspaces in Germany. It includes the definition of U-space and outlines the requirements for both private and public stakeholders involved in the future establishment of these new airspaces. The report first discusses the laws that authorize their creation in the European Union before identifying the predicted locations for future operations.
An overview can be seen in the section titled “Bedarf” or “Need” in English:
“In most cases, U-spaces are established in agglomeration areas because a strong demand for drone operations and high traffic density can be expected there. However, there are also arguments for U-spaces where the integration of unmanned aviation into existing traffic structures may be necessary for other reasons (e.g. military airspaces, cross-border UAS operations).”
Agglomeration areas are considered to be urban areas that have been essentially connected to one another. In Germany, these include Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich and the Ruhr-Düsseldorf-Cologne region, which is often referred to as the Rhine-Ruhr area. These areas are also considered to have high population densities.
The requirements for establishing a U-space in Germany
The document states that the creation of a U-space airspace is subject to the fulfillment of several criteria by the relevant stakeholders. These criteria include demonstrating the feasibility of integrating manned and unmanned airspace, receiving a positive evaluation from the BMDV alongside the submission a U-space application, demonstrating that UAS operations are economically viable enough to support the USSP, and ensuring that the USSP responsible for the U-space can maintain it in perpetuity.
As a result, smaller cities may not be part of the initial roll-out of new U-spaces until the costs of scaling for the USSPs have decreased to the extent that expansion to a different region with fewer UAS operations can maintain their financial stability.
We’ve roughly translated the German requirements into English, so you can understand the criteria needed before the need for a U-space airspace is considered to be fulfilled:
- The integration of unmanned aviation into existing transport structures is possible and necessary with a view to ensuring safe aviation.
- An application and a positive assessment by the U-space coordinator for the establishment of a U-space has been submitted to the Bundesministerium für Digitales und Verkehr (BMDV) and is granted — the assessment is based on objective criteria.
- U-space has to be big enough to generate sufficient income for UAS operators
- There is a high demand for the services of the USSP, which is suitable to cover the costs and enable the USSP companies to make a secure living.
- USSPs are available that can ensure the maintenance of the U-space on a permanent basis.
Before U-space services can be provided in these areas, additional criteria for the establishment of a U-space airspace need to be met. These are only taken into consideration after the initial five criteria we listed above for the necessity of a U-space have been met.
By implementing these requirements, the German government aims to avoid collisions with other traffic sources (in the air, on the ground and on or under the water), as well as noise and pollution hazards.
These requirements include the following (please note these are translations. Please refer to the German original):
- Information and regulations regarding the U-spaces, including the respective approved U-space Service Providers (USSPs), are to be published on the Federal Digital Platform for Unmanned Aerial Systems (www.uas-betrieb.de). This includes information pertaining to the purpose of the U-spaces, the geographical areas, the respective USSPs, the technical requirements for the operation of UAS and possible exemptions as well as the technical requirements for the UAS. According to Article 3(6) of DVO (EU) 2021/664, information shall also be made available through the aeronautical information service (Flugberatungsdienst).
- The ground areas of the U-spaces are composed of hexagons, whose position is defined by means of the WGS-84 coordinate system. All U-space-related services, such as those of the USSPs, are based on the specified hexagons.
- This should also enable a smooth reconfiguration of the U-space.
- The concerns of environmental protection, in particular nature and noise protection, as well as consumer protection, must be adequately taken into account.
- The BMDV or a federal authority designated by it shall appoint a U-space Coordinator whose task it shall be to coordinate, with the participation of the competent authorities (in particular the regional aviation and environmental authorities and LufABw/ competent unit in the GB BMVg), including the local authorities and units (Article 18f DVO (EU) 2021/664), included are application documents, for the designation of U-spaces and examined for suitability, necessity and appropriateness alongside a risk assessment to be carried out, covering at least the areas of:
- Safety of manned and unmanned aviation
- Security, both physical and digital,
- Environment, including noise, emissions, water quality, animals, nature conservation protected areas,
- privacy, including data protection
- Changes to U-space (or parts of it) require a new risk assessment and involvement of the national aviation and environmental authorities as well as any other authorities and bodies concerned prior to commissioning. If circumstances change, which may have an impact on the risk assessment, a new risk assessment is also required.
- The approval of the Ministry of Defense is required for the designation of U-spaces if (low-altitude) air routes and airspaces under military jurisdiction are affected.
- U-spaces that are established must have a Single Common Information Service Provider (Single CISP) and at least one USSP.
- The Single CISP is designated in accordance with Article 5(6) of the DVO (EU) 2021/664 and each USSP must be authorized to provide their services in accordance with Articles 14 to 16 of the DVO (EU) 2021/664. In the case of USSPs with their headquarters in Germany, authorization and supervision (including audits) are carried out by the Bundesaufsichtsamt für Flugsicherung (BAF). Providers of U-space services whose main place of business is in another EU Member State or in a third country must apply for approval from the same other Member State or from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The authorization is valid for an unlimited period of time, provided that the company concerned continues to provide the services described in the authorization and that no facts justifying the withdrawal of the authorization become known.
- At least every two years, the Single CISP and the USSP, as long as they have their principal place of business in Germany, shall be audited by the BAF in accordance with Annex II, Subpart B, ATM/ ANS.AR.C.010.
- UAS operators may only operate UAS in U-spaces if they use an approved USSP; authorities and organizations with security tasks (BOS) may deviate from this.
- Each U-space must be equipped with a standardized telecommunication network covering the entire U-space with a range not lower than the maximum altitude of the U-space. The telecommunication network shall have a data rate that ensures full and error-free provision of all USSP services to all UAS operators and communication between USSP and the Single CISP at all times and in “real-time” throughout U-space.
- As part of the risk assessment, the U-space coordinator obtains the results of the examination by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) that the telecommunications network has the required data rate and that effective measures have been taken to ensure the network’s ability to function even if individual components fail.
- UAS not operated by BOS must give priority to manned and unmanned aircraft of BOS in U-spaces.
- In U-spaces with control areas, coordination procedures between the ATC unit, Single CISP, and USSP shall be established in accordance with Article 1(2)(b) DVO (EU) 2021/665.
The creation of new U-spaces will facilitate the development of the drone industry in Germany, which heavily relies on telecommunications connectivity, as seen in the requirements listed above. This is great news for those in the telecommunications industry, as existing infrastructure can be used to support the developing drone industry.
At AirborneRF, we also support them in these new requirements. We have already worked with existing telecommunications provider Vodafone and others to co-create a solution that already meets the above requirements, e.g. with DroNet.
DroNet is designed to address critical questions concerning the practical implementation of drone operations at scale. Such questions include the number of people under the flight path and the stability of cellular connectivity between the pilot and the drone. By addressing these concerns, DroNet expedites the approval process, thereby enhancing the overall safety of airborne drone operations.
Communication architectures as an additional U-space requirement in Germany
In addition to the telecommunications requirements that stipulate the need for mobile connectivity providers for UAS operators, there are additional requirements for communication architectures that need to be built and maintained.
Several of these requirements include the ability to communicate between several stakeholders quickly during real-time operations (both private and public), which is likely why telecommunications networks are required, as they’ve already been proven capable of accomplishing this.
These requirements include the following (rough translations from the original document):
- The communication procedures between air traffic services, the Single CISP, USSPs, BOS and UAS operators must be digitalized and automated to the greatest possible extent. The goal is the digital networking of all participants in an overarching system network.
- The Single CISP is the central hub where all data relevant to the operation of the U-space is bundled and forwarded to the USSP, flight control units and authorities via suitable interfaces.
- If the U-space is in airspace G, every manned aircraft not operated by BOS (first responders) must report its operational data and flight path digitally to the Single CISP in good time before entering the U-space. Separate procedures apply to BOS (p. 16f).
- If the U-space is in airspace D (CTR), the ATC unit shall report in advance to the Single CISP all available and relevant operational data of manned aircraft approaching or flying in the U-space in accordance with point ATS.OR.127 of the Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373. The Single CISP shall pass this information to the USSP.
- Based on the messages from the manned aircraft and the operational data transmitted by the ATC unit, the Single CISP automatically defines a corridor based on the defined hexagons around the respective manned aircraft and its intended route and integrates it into the air situation picture so that manned traffic cannot be endangered by UAS when flying through the U-Space.
- All USSPs shall receive from the Single CISP, on a non-discriminatory basis and of equal quality, the required operational information and the digital air situation picture in “real-time” or as specified in the risk assessment.
- All USSPs report to the Single CISP in digitized form for any authorized operation of UAS as well as the activation of the permit to fly. The Single CISP integrates the data into the air situation picture.
- All USSPs report all relevant operational data of the UAS they are in charge of to the Single CISP in a digitalized form in real-time. The Single CISP integrates the data into the air situation picture.
- The Single CISP reports the position data of all UAS located in U-spaces in control zones to the respective responsible air traffic control units in a digitalized form in “real-time”.
- If the telecommunication network is not fully functional, the U-space must be blocked until the network is functioning properly again.
Why the future of BVLOS drone operations already depends on connected drones
Continuous communication with the operating central base is required for BVLOS drone operations. This comprises recognizing others in occupied airspaces, reacting accordingly, allowing them to see the drone’s position, and understanding changing ground risks such as population density. Because new U-space airspaces will be created in areas with higher population densities (due to the economic impact it will have on the USSP), it means telecommunication-based connectivity will become a core to the creation of U-space airspaces in Germany.
In the new requirements, there are three sections that stand out to telecommunications connectivity providers:
“Each U-space must be equipped with a standardized telecommunication network covering the entire U-space with a range not lower than the maximum altitude of the U-space. The telecommunication network shall have a data rate that ensures the full and error-free provision of all USSP services to all UAS operators and communication between USSP and the Single CISP at all times and in “real-time” throughout U-space.”
The initial section outlines the requirement for a standardized telecommunications network (standardisierten Telekommunikationsnetz) to be available in every U-space. This implies the use of existing telecommunications infrastructure, which has already been standardized. These systems must connect all UAS operations, USSPs and the Single CISP. Therefore, a complete connectivity service is necessary to enable seamless operations.
“As part of the risk assessment, the U-space coordinator obtains the results of the examination by the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) that the telecommunications network has the required data rate and that effective measures have been taken to ensure the network’s ability to function even if individual components fail.”
The telecommunications requirement in the second section implies that the infrastructure is sufficiently established to have fallback measures in case of failure. Because of this, only larger and more established networks have had adequate time and experience to implement and assess these measures with current mobile network service users.
This also means that the BnetzA has to validate (i.e. measure and characterize) the performance of the network, in a continuous way.
Our software, AirborneRF, supports such capabilities with the underlying airspace analytics platform, utilizing streaming data from the networks and the aircraft to generate and maintain a digital twin of the entire airspace connectivity.
“If the telecommunication network is not fully functional, the U-space must be blocked until the network is functioning properly again.”
The last section concludes that if this fallback fails, then the U-space will remain blocked until the telecommunications network is repaired. This implies that connectivity is one of the foremost elements of Germany’s plans to establish new U-spaces.
How DroNet offers the first telecommunications solution for the drone industry in Germany
At AirborneRF, we’ve developed a software with our partners, such as Vodafone UPLIFT, which is called DroNet. It’s the first tested solution to establish telecommunications connectivity for the future establishment of U-space airspaces in Germany.
The software enables complete connectivity analytics, measurements, insights and continuous high-rate data exchange between all U-space stakeholders, such as BOS, UAS operators, USSPs, and the Single CISP. Developing this software was a challenging task that required a multi-year collaboration between private and public aviation stakeholders. The AirborneRF software, which provides the base API for the DroNet solution, was only put into commercial use after repeatedly proven safe and reliable after extensive testing. The infrastructure of DroNet, which can provide the basis for the telecommunication-specific requirements within these requirements, is provided by Vodafone’s extensive telecommunications network.
Moreover, these are secured features that have the same cybersecurity functionalities as the current telecommunications infrastructure used by Vodafone Germany and their more than 30 million customers in the country.
In addition to this, the AirborneRF software specifically includes drone-specific features that UAS operators can benefit from, including air and ground risk mitigation and real-time analytics to improve and optimize future operations, especially when U-space airspaces are overcrowded due to high demand.
Learn more about using DroNet for the establishment of new U-space airspaces by contacting us!
The lowest layer of airspace on the ground, which is of the greatest importance for hobby VFR pilots, is called Gulf airspace or airspace G. This airspace is generally reserved for VFR flights in Germany – contrary to SERA.5025 (Rules applicable to IFR flights within controlled airspace), which is more liberal in this respect. In Germany, this airspace is – contrary to SERA.5025, which is more liberal in this respect – reserved for VFR flights (which is why VFR pilots are quite safe from IFR traffic), NfL I 245/14. IFR flights in airspace G are, however, permitted on precisely defined routes published in a regulation.
Airspace G basically extends from the earth’s surface to an altitude of 2,500 feet AGL. It can therefore be said that the upper boundary of airspace G follows the profile of the earth’s surface. Airspace G is also not shown as such on the ICAO charts. Airspace Gulf is divided into two horizontally separated layers. In order to apply this correctly in individual cases, one must be able to think somewhat abstractly.
The horizontal separation is at 3,000 feet MSL or 1,000 feet above ground, whichever is higher.
Authorities and organizations with security tasks (Behörden und Organisationen mit Sicherheitsaufgaben, BOS) include governmental and non-governmental actors that perform specific tasks to preserve or restore public security and order. The BOS include, for example, the federal and state police forces, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), the Federal Customs Administration, the fire brigades, the rescue services, the disaster and civil protection authorities of the Federation and the Länder (states), including the cooperating aid organizations, as well as the authorities and agencies entrusted by law with security and law enforcement tasks. The Federal Armed Forces and allied armed forces are on an equal footing with the BOS.
The Single Common Information Service Provider (Single CISP) is a service provider subject to authorization who has been designated by the BMDV for all U-Spaces pursuant to Art. 5 para. 6 of the DVO (EU) 2021/664, who is provided with the data on an established U-Space specified in Art. 5 para. 1 to 3 of the DVO (EU) 2021/664 and who forwards these data to the addressees specified therein, including the USSP, pursuant to Art. 5 para. 5 of the DVO (EU) 2021/664.
A U-Space Service Provider (USSP) is a service provider that relies on digital services and automation of functions designed to support safe and efficient access to U-Space airspace for a large number of UAS. Any operator of a UAS in U-Space shall make use of a USSP which shall provide at least the services referred to in Article 8 (Network Identification Service), Article 9 (Geo-awareness Service), Article 10 (UAS Flight Authorisation Service), Article 11 (Traffic Information Service) and Article 13 (Conformance Monitoring Service) of DVO (EU) 2021/664 must offer.