Do you want to buy a drone? Do you want to produce drones? For what use? The EU has decided on common rules and the member states have added their own legislation. Now, EU is launching a special operation to improve drone safety in view of a full use of these aircraft in Europe, even over our cities. Check rules in Europe
Brussels, 19 April 2023
Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have gained significant attention in recent years due to their potential applications in a wide range of industries. From delivery services to search and rescue operations, drones offer a fast and cost-effective way to gather data and provide services in areas that are difficult or dangerous to access by humans.
However, the use of drones in urban areas presents unique challenges. Cities are complex environments with a variety of obstacles, including tall buildings, narrow streets, and crowded areas. Furthermore, the risk of collisions with other aircraft or people is much higher in urban areas than in rural environments.
To make drones suitable for cities, researchers and engineers must overcome these challenges by developing new technologies and systems that can navigate the complex urban landscape safely and efficiently.
Some of the key areas of research include:
- Sense and avoid technology: This technology enables drones to detect and avoid obstacles in their path. This is particularly important in cities where there are many potential obstacles such as buildings, trees, and power lines.
- Urban air traffic management systems: These systems are designed to manage the flow of drone traffic in urban areas to avoid collisions and ensure safe and efficient operation.
- Noise reduction technology: Drones can be noisy, which can be a concern in densely populated urban areas. Researchers are working on developing new technologies to reduce the noise generated by drones, such as quieter propellers and acoustic enclosures.
- Battery technology: Drones are powered by batteries, which have a limited lifespan. Researchers are working on developing longer-lasting and more efficient batteries to extend the range and flight time of drones.
- Communication systems: Drones need to be able to communicate with each other and with ground-based operators to ensure safe and efficient operation in urban areas. Researchers are developing new communication systems that can operate in crowded urban environments and provide real-time data on drone locations and movements.
Despite the challenges, the potential benefits of using drones in cities are significant. Drones could be used to deliver essential goods and services, monitor traffic and air quality, and provide rapid response in emergency situations. However, to realize these benefits, researchers and engineers must continue to work on developing new technologies and systems that can make drones safe and efficient in urban environments.
Over cities and not only GPS
Drones currently rely on GPS for location tracking, but the European Galileo network is also being tested as an alternative. DELOREAN (Drones and Egnss for LOw aiRspacE urbAN mobility) is a european project financed by EU and it will explore the urban sky to provide faster and cleaner delivery services. Another benefit of flying drone deliveries is that the streets below will be free for cyclists and pedestrians. Moving in this direction, the project will look to the European Global Navigation Satellite System to make urban air mobility a solution. Galileo’s signal structure and waveform help avoid disruptions in urban areas, and the network offers higher accuracy for pinpointing locations. Galileo also provides an authentication service that allows drones to verify satellite signals, adding a layer of security and preventing theft of drone contents through fake signals.
Successful experiments like DELOREAN’s could pave the way for mass urban air deliveries, replacing traditional van deliveries. However, safety remains a critical concern, and regulations need to be established to ensure safe and responsible drone operations.
Another EU-funded project called LABYRINTH is tackling the challenge of ensuring that autonomous drones keep track of each other.
An ARQUIMEA drone being tested in Marugán, Segovia, Spain. © Labyrinth, 2023
Autonomous drones require no ground-based human pilots, who are generally needed for the current generation of UAVs.
LABYRINTH, which is due to end in May 2023 after three years, is developing software that acts as an air traffic control system for drones. The 3D position of each is tracked and the aircraft then relays this information to other drones in the vicinity so they don’t crash into each other.
Similarly, if a drone faces technical troubles – say one of its motors fails – it needs to be able to direct other UAVs away from it.
‘Before businesses like urban air delivery can develop, we first need safety,’ said Moreno Lorente. ‘That’s what we’re building now.’
Drones are expected to experience a very major development. In all sectors of human activity: from leisure time to professional use.
To stimulate the production and use of drones, avoiding accidents with people, material goods and other flying vehicles, the EU and the Member States have established very precise rules which you can consult here.
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