The SAFIR-Med project showcases an application for multiple drone operations that is viable and robust throughout Europe. A range of operations and services up to U3 linking to smart mobility are demonstrated, including flights in uncontrolled very low level (VLL) airspace; flights in both Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) and Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS); and flights interacting with both manned aircraft and other unmanned aircraft. These demonstrations include medical inter-hospital transport and transport of the life -saving medical goods to the scene of the incident.
We are validating the results achieved by enhancing the real demonstrations through large-scale simulations in order to test the maximum airspace capacity and then further validating our results by simulating demonstrations both in the cities where the real urban demos are taking place, but also in two additional locations in Europe, namely Athens, Greece and Prague, Czech Republic. Lessons learnt are documented in a Performance Assessment and recommendations report, providing refinements to the current U-space architecture principles and creating measurable indicators for UAM which will enable Smart Cities to include UAM in their Transport Roadmaps and set relevant measurable goals aligned with the current Smart City concept and standards.
First a full de-risking process of the demonstrator flight scenarios were practiced and finally executed at the BVLOS testing area DronePort in Sint-Truiden, Belgium. This was organized in cooperation with key stakeholders, like the involved CAA’s, the various involved authorities and ground partners. Interaction with several organisations was sought after to align on safety requirements, advised procedures and their feedback will be provided.
SAFIR-MED prioritized safety and considered successful completion of demonstrations at DronePort to be a necessary precondition for moving to the second phase. The DronePort test facility allows testing of complex scenarios in segregated airspace. This allows for identifying potentially unidentified risks in a real-life environment excluding the accompanying risk of executing those scenarios in non-segregated airspace.
This complex airspace consists of the overlapping Geozones of Antwerp International Airport and the Geozone above the Port of Antwerp as well as several heliport Geozones. Each of those Geozones has its own managment and procedures for approving drone flights. Antwerp demonstrations will be executed in close cooperation and coordination with BCAA, the Port of Antwerp and its geozone manager, the airport and heliport Geozone managers as well as Air Traffic Control, Antwerp city authorities and emergency services.
In addition to the medical use cases, a manned training flight from Antwerp International Airport will generate a conflict with medical transport use cases that are operating underneath the airport’s VFR circuit and/or are crossing the Antwerp airport runway extended centreline.skeyes, SkeyDrone, Helicus and SABCA will support the demonstration teams to obtain necessary permissions for demo flights in Antwerp and the Port of Antwerp. Experience from the SAFIR project and the Medrona project will be used in planning and obtaining such permissions. Helicus will be the registered operator for flights executed in Antwerp.
MAHHL Cities, UAM Region
Aachen, Heerlen, Maastricht
Within SAFIR-Med, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from partners in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany demonstrated a medical transport in the region of the five MAHHL-cities Maastricht (NL), Aachen (DE), Hasselt (BE), Heerlen (NL) and Liege (BE). These cities founded the MAHHL-Urban Air Mobility-Initiative under the umbrella of the European UAM Initiative Cities Community in September 2018 with the objective to support the development of innovative aerial transport and logistical solutions across the region. The initiative has already begun to strengthen cross border cooperation in the medical sector.
Droniq together with RWTH Aachen University and City of Aachen supported the demonstration with respect to safety aspects and risk assessment and towards airspace integration and UAS traffic management of the beyond visual line of sight operation (BLVOS). As UAM-MAHHL coordinator, the City of Aachen is in charge of social acceptance and privacy protection and – together with the University Hospital Aachen (UKA) – will coordinated the demonstration flight of a FlyXDrive Drone near the dutch border in german airspace.
Fast-time simulations employ data and experience from demonstrations to build detailed models of drones and traffic. Hundreds of large-scale scenarios are simulated to evaluate drone traffic over urban areas. Scenarios cover various traffic densities, drone types, safety ranges, flight rules, routes, no-flight zones, etc. Simulation results can be used to evaluate traffic, assess airspace capacity, and create heatmaps with hotspots. Simulations are enabled by the simulation platform of AgentfFly Technologies and assisted with location data by HUSI.
In Athens, Greece, two main hospitals serve a huge number of incidents every day. One is placed on the southwestern side of Athens, and the other is on the northwest side of Athens. Considering the heavy traffic load in Athens, especially at rush hour, despite the distance being less than 20 km by car, it can take almost 1 hour for a crucial sample to be delivered from hospital to hospital. Having a VTOL drone or a multicopter capable of carrying a payload would allow to deliver the sample between hospitals. The flight plan route design considers archaeological monuments, highly populated areas, and manned aviation traffic. In this case, the U-Space service provider should get permission from FIS (Flight Information Service) and simultaneously from the CTR of Tatoi Airport. Because our scenarios are medical flights, an exemption is obtained from the Air traffic services to allow flying above the prohibited archaeological areas.
In Prague, broader scenarios are built, including medical delivery, package delivery, passenger transport, and other drone traffic. The city environment, similar to Athens, consists of multiple hospitals, densely populated areas with heavy ground traffic, the vicinity of Vaclav Havel Airport and other local airports, and specific restricted zones (e.g., Prague castle). Incremental traffic created by multiple generators is simulated to assess airspace capacity. Traffic generators include medical delivery between hospitals, package delivery between warehouses and delivery pads, passenger transportation between vertiports, and multiple random generators to model additional types of traffic. Simulation results provide insights into how scaling up drone traffic works in urban areas and how hotspots are created around vertiports and restricted areas. Simulation can be configured for other cities to assess capacity for their specific environment and traffic needs.
In Antwerp, scenarios are built on real-world demonstrations in Antwerp and Aachen. Simulations focus more on operational problems related to mixed traffic with manned aviation. Especially in Antwerp, the local airport is near the city center and medical facilities. Close coordination with ANSP is crucial to allow safe and efficient drone operations. Simulations are used to evaluate different situations, approaches, and parameters, e.g., the use of predefined drone routes or reserved corridors, to ensure situational awareness of air traffic controllers.
For more information on the simulations developed within the SAFIR-Med project see the ppt presentation by AgentFly Technologies and the video shared below.
SAFIR-Med has organised three Open Days events, at Droneport, Antwerp and Aachen. During the Open Days events policy makers as well as city and hospital staff were able to attend a conference on the possibilities new technologies in UAM can offer to cities. The presentations that took place provided knowledge on the project activities, outcomes and lessons learned and were seeking to boost willingness to adopt project solutions. This activity facilitated collaboration and synergies with other projects and initiatives running in the cities, allowing to further build on already existing initiatives and jointly contribute the future vision of the field. Given the high potential social impacts of SAFIR-Med on European society, the SAFIR-Med events narrowed the gap between research communities and the wider public, not only by spreading knowledge of the project results but also by engaging the public and by increasing interest and enthusiasm for SAFIR-Med technologies.
Learn more on the events visiting their dedicated pages: