What is U-space?

The concept of U-space emerged to support commercial operations with drones, especially those entailing greater complexity and automation. This is the European system being developed to manage drone traffic.

U-space is a set of specific services and procedures designed to ensure safe and efficient access to airspace for a large number of drones, and which are based on high levels of digitalisation and automation.

The purpose of U-space is therefore to achieve automated UAS management and integration, allowing for a large series of operations, many of them even simultaneous, and all of this in harmonious coexistence with the current ATM system.

Implementing this new system requires States first to define and designate U-space airspaces - which will be the volumes of airspace in which the mandatory U-space services will be provided - in order to guarantee safe, efficient and interoperable operations.

Four U-space mandatory services will be established in every U-space airspace:

1. Network Identification Service: provides the identity of UAS operators and the location and trajectory of drones during operations.

2. Geo-Awareness Service: provides information on operational conditions, airspace limitations or existing time restrictions.

3. Flight Clearance Service: ensures free-of-conflict operations with other UAS operating in the same volume of airspace.

4. Traffic Information Service: alerts operators of air traffic that may be found near the aircraft.

Additionally, there are two more U-space services that may be established as mandatory for certain U-space airspaces, when so determined by the State after the development of a safety evaluation:

5. Weather Information Service: supports the flight planning and execution phases and enhances the performance of other U-space services.

6. Compliance Monitoring Service: warns of non-compliance with the granted flight clearance and informs operators of any deviation from it.

Furthermore, for the provision of these mandatory services, the deployment of U-space will entail the integration of two new service providers into the system: the common information service provider (CISP) and the U-space service provider (USSP).

The CISP will be in charge of spreading the common information required to enable the operation and provision of U-space services in U-space airspaces wherever it has been designated. The CISP will be a single and reliable source of all common information.

Accordingly, U-space services will be provided by different certified USSPs within these U-space airspaces and during all operational phases. In addition, they will actively coordinate with air traffic service (ATS) providers, with other USSPs and with the CISP for the exchange of information and proper functioning of all operations.

The last aspect to be determined by each State will be the delivery model for these U-space services. The service providing model may be centralised, distributed or mixed.

In the centralised model, a single CISP will be designated in each U-space airspace, which will open the possibility for centralising coordination between USSPs and ATS providers, by acting as a single focal point for information.

The CISP is not considered in the distributed model, and States will be responsible for providing common information to all parties. Coordination between USSPs and ATS providers will be done directly.

There is a third, more flexible solution, which combines both previous models. This would be the mixed service provision model, where there would be U-space airspaces with a designated CISP wherever it is deemed necessary, while in others the distributed model would be chosen.

Publications on unmanned aircraft systems

ECAC News #73 UAS Bulletin 02/2021