25 September 2022
SΕSAR JU and SAFIR-Med partners inaugurate the first Droneport in South-East Europe

What are the needs that the concepts of Advanced Air Mobility and U-Space aim to respond to?

The inauguration of the first Droneport in South-East Europe this September, acted as a drawing board for SAFIR-Med and SESAR-JU representatives, accompanied by a wealth of diverse stakeholders, to discuss the creation of comprehensive standards for a holistic AAM and U-Space ecosystem.

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SAFIR-Med members and representatives from SESAR JU, Greek National Civil Aviation Authority and the Hellenic Droneport

(Photo credit: Hellenic Droneport) 

The term Droneport itself, is a new one for most Greeks; actually, having an operative Droneport is a completely novel concept and significant innovation for Greek air mobility and U-Space. This is why the Hellenic U-Space Institute (ΗUSI) and Future Needs, both partners of the SAFIR-Med project, organised an executive event at the airport of the historic Greek city of Messolonghi, on the 23rd of September, to present to the stakeholders this ideal location for drone testing, flights and research. The occasion of the inauguration of the first Droneport in South East Europe - and the only one registered recently in the EUROCONTROL body - was an excellent opportunity of an executive meeting between national and transnational stakeholders, namely SESAR JU representatives, the Greek National Civil Aviation Authority and local authority representatives. The event was chaired by Christos Skliros, Head of Engineering at HUSI.  

 

The Hellenic Droneport facility in Messolonghi is the perfect testbed for the testing and validation of new technologies and the training of drone pilots. It is a great opportunity for operators to connect to an ecosystem of innovative companies and gain access to testing grounds for novel concepts and technological development. This site in the Messolonghi airport is a uniquely appropriate space for experimentation, providing users with all the amenities and safety measures of an aerodrome without the intensive airspace restrictions present in similar spaces due to little air traffic, as well as an unpopulated ground area, adjacent only to sparsely populated communities and ground morphology that ensures safe take-off and landing even in the presence of potential technical issues. 

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Hellenic Droneport information and UAS Operating Areas. (Photos: Hellenic Droneport) 

During the event, the mayor of the city of Messolonghi, Mr. Konstantinos Lyros welcomed the attendants, pointing out the importance of the Hellenic Droneport for the Greek U-Space, and Mrs Antigoni Karahaliou from the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, talked about the role of HCAA in the Greek airspace, the unmanned air zones that have been recently established in Greece and the regulation issues that come up. Moreover Mr. Robin Garrity, Senior External Affairs Officer at SESAR Joint Undertaking, underlined the importance of the input all relevant European organisations and companies have provided to SESAR, in order to produce a solid drone regulation plan for the EU airspace and emphasized the difficulties of the coexistence of manned and unmanned aviation in the same environment at the same time with safety being on top of everything. He applauded the initiative to create a Droneport space in Greece and wished all good luck with the next steps. 

 
The Founder and Head of Research and Business Development of Future Needs, Mrs Anna Palaiologk, presented a number of “Funding opportunities for a European U-Space”, such as the Horizon Europe, Erasmus Plus and Connected Europe Facility programmes, explaining their aims, similarities and differences. Mrs Palaiologk facilitated an extensive discussion by inviting all participants to collaborate in order to build a strong South-Eastern European U-space ecosystem, given that this region lacks initiatives and funding at the moment; greek and international stakeholders present in the event widely concurred that the time has arrived for such initiatives to take flight. 

On behalf of HUSI, Miss Afroditi Sakellaropoulou, UAS Legal Research & Business Development Manager for the Hellenic U-Space Institute, talked about ensuring the sustainability of advanced air mobility, explained the extent to which drones are currently used in Greece and initiated discourse on future AAM applications in the country, having consideration of the populace, national regulations, potential obstacles and aids 

Last but not least, the AgentFly Technologies Team had the opportunity, to share an insightful presentation demonstrating the simulations of medical flights in the cities of Prague and Athens - a task they work on together with HUSI and Future Needs in the SAFIR-Med project. The AgentFly Technologies CEO, Mr. Premysl Volf and CTO, Mr Millan Rollo, both senior researchers at the Czeck Technical University in Prague, explained how software simulations play an essential role in evaluating various aspects of drone integration into shared airspace. The simulations model complex urban environments (including surface, buildings, and restricted airspaces) using digital twins of drones and U-space services. According to the researchers, the simulation can run thousands of scenarios with hundreds of drones to assess key metrics like capacity under various conditions, and can be connected to existing U-space systems (e.g., C2C system) and perform benchmark tests by a large volume of virtual drones injected into the system. 

The event produced a fruitful discussion on Advanced Air Mobility that the SAFIR-Med community is invited to contribute to. How are we to define the needs that this technological and regulatory concept aims to respond to? The only answer can be through ensuring holistic contribution to the advancement of this idea, by engaging the ecosystem in its entirety, including Operators, Manufacturers, Service Providers, Regulatory Authorities and most importantly the public. 

Any organisation, company or individual can use the Hellenic Droneport as a testbed in European national or commercial projects. For any additional information please contact HUSI at info@uspace.gr.