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Ground Control Station for Commercial Drones Demonstrated in Italian Airspace

Honeywell's Ground Control Station exhibited its capabilities in a real-world setting, showcasing features such as dynamic flight plan updates and handling contingency situations By Joe Macey / 07 Dec 2023
Ground Control Station for Commercial Drones Demonstrated
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Honeywell, in collaboration with Pipistrel, ENAV, and D-Flight, demonstrated ground control station technology using a multicopter drone at Gorizia Airport in Italy.

The recently completed demonstration is part of the SESAR Digital Sky Demonstration project, U-ELCOME, whose overall aim is to support the implementation of U-space services for the safe and secure integration of drones into airspace across Europe.

Honeywell’s Ground Control Station exhibited its capabilities in a real-world setting, showcasing features like dynamic flight plan updates and adeptly handling contingency situations. When faced with challenges such as link loss or airspace alterations, the Ground Control Station, with its autonomy executive technology, proficiently diverted the drone to a secure alternate landing zone. During the demonstration, D-flight rendered pivotal U-Space services, emphasizing the functionality of flight plan submissions, activation, and real-time data sharing on surrounding traffic and air-space availability.

The demonstration positions the contributing companies at the forefront of advancing technologies that operate beyond the visual line of sight utilized by pilots on traditional aircraft (often referred to as BVLOS technologies in aviation).

“This collaboration underlines the imminent importance of autonomy in aviation,” said David Shilliday, Vice President and General Manager, Advanced Air Mobility, Honeywell Aerospace. “Honeywell is channeling its avionics experience to craft a certifiable Ground Control Station, underscoring our commitment to innovative solutions for the unmanned aircraft segment.”

“U-space is crucial for the safe and efficient integration of drones into the airspace,” said Maurizio Paggetti, CEO at D-Flight and COO at ENAV. “It’s a key enabler for various applications and services that rely on drones and is an essential component of the future of aviation. ENAV Group is fully committed to demonstrating such services and, as leader of Italian cluster in U-ELCOME project, we are excited about the achievements of the initial integration of D-Flight services and Honeywell UAS Ground Control station. It represents an important milestone to mature the provision of U-space services in a complex ecosystem.”

“Sustainable aviation grows from innovation and partnerships,” added Tine Tomažič, director of engineering and programs at Pipistrel. “Every demonstration raises the bar of what is possible, and we look forward to continuing developments at a rapid pace toward the commercial deployment of drones in EU airspace.”

Over the next year, Honeywell’s Ground Control Station is set to unveil enhanced capabilities, encompassing the management of multiple drones by a single operator and seamless handover of drones between different Ground Control Stations. Demonstrations with these enhanced functionalities including BVLOS flights are slated for the second half of 2024. The U-ELCOME project’s final demonstration is anticipated to include an integrated showcase of Pipistrel’s aircraft solutions with Honeywell’s Ground Control Station technology and d-flight’s U-Space services in Q2 2025.

The SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking is an institutionalized European partnership between private and public sector partners co-funded by the European Union to accelerate the delivery of the Digital European Sky through research and innovation. The U-ELCOME Digital Sky Demonstration project is coordinated by EUROCONTROL, funded by CINEA, the European Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Executive Agency in cooperation with SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. The Italian cluster of the U-ELCOME project is led by ENAV.

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