Honeywell and Pipistrel, in collaboration with ENAV and D-Flight, showcased notable developments in the operation of remotely piloted aircraft within European airspace by successfully demonstrating ground control station technology using a multicopter drone at Gorizia Airport in Italy.
The demonstration, a part of the SESAR Digital Sky Demonstration project called U-ELCOME, aimed to support the safe and secure integration of drones into European airspace. The focus lies on U-space, which employs digitization, automation, and specific procedures to facilitate the safe operation of numerous drones within airspace, crucial for the burgeoning advanced air mobility sector.
Honeywell’s Ground Control Station enables real-time adjustments to flight plans and effectively manages unforeseen situations like link loss or airspace modifications. With its autonomous decision-making capabilities, the station efficiently rerouted the drone to an alternative landing zone, showcasing its adaptability in challenging scenarios. D-Flight’s provision of U-space services emphasized functionalities such as flight plan submissions, activation, and real-time data sharing on traffic and airspace availability.
The collaboration represents a step forward in the development of technologies designed to operate beyond the visual line of sight, which is integral to the advancement of BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) technologies in aviation.
David Shilliday, vice president and general manager of Advanced Air Mobility at Honeywell Aerospace, emphasized the significance of autonomy in aviation, highlighting Honeywell’s commitment to pioneering solutions for unmanned aircraft.
Maurizio Paggetti, CEO at D-Flight and COO at ENAV, stressed the critical role of U-space in integrating drones safely into airspace, expressing excitement about the progress made in integrating D-Flight services with Honeywell’s UAS Ground Control Station.
Tine Tomažič, director of engineering and programs at Pipistrel, highlighted the role of innovation and partnerships in fostering sustainable aviation, emphasizing the continuous push towards commercial deployment of drones in EU airspace.
Looking ahead, Honeywell’s Ground Control Station aims to unveil enhanced capabilities, including the management of multiple drones by a single operator and seamless drone handover between different Ground Control Stations. Demonstrations with these enhanced functionalities, including BVLOS flights, are scheduled for the latter half of 2024. The final demonstration of the U-ELCOME project in Q2 2025 is expected to feature an integrated showcase of Pipistrel’s aircraft solutions with Honeywell’s Ground Control Station technology and D-flight’s U-Space services.
The U-ELCOME project is part of the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking, an initiative co-funded by the European Union aiming to accelerate the development of the Digital European Sky through research and innovation. The project is coordinated by EUROCONTROL and funded by CINEA, the European Climate, Environment, and Infrastructure Executive Agency, in collaboration with SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. The Italian cluster of the U-ELCOME project is led by ENAV, further solidifying the collaboration’s role in shaping the future of European airspace integration for drones.