Last November 19th 2018, in the premise of Distretto Tecnologico Aerospaziale (Aerospace Tecnological Cluster) – DTA, Brindisi (Italy), RPASinAir consortium held the project Kick-off meeting.

The RPASinAir project is funded by Italian Minister of Education, University and Scientific Research (MIUR). DTA is the lead partner and has the role of project manager and of technology transfer facilitator, and will contribute in the creation of a laboratory for experimenting RPAS (drone) missions into non-segregated air space. The industrial partners of the project consortium are Leonardo, Planetek Italia, Enginsoft (members of DTA), ENAV, Telespazio, Vitrociset and Aeroporti di Puglia, while research partners are Università degli Studi di Bari, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche – Istituto per il Rilevamento Elettromagnetico dell’Ambiente (CNR-IREA), ENEA, Politecnico di Bari (members of DTA), Università degli Studi di Enna KORE and National

Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN). Scientific lead is Alessandro Mura (Leonardo SpA), project manager is Antonio Zilli (DTA). The consortium will invest about 7.5M€ in realizing the project.

More than 50 people participated in the Kick-off meeting, which launched scientific, technical, managerial and administrative activities. Participants shared and agreed on project vision, expected results and action plans: the strategic objective is the development of innovative capacities to exploit RPAS in risk monitoring and emergency management missions (flood, avalanche, heartquake, man-made disasters, …) resulting in increasing territorial and environmental resiliency. To achieve this objective several technologies will be exploited: technologies to enable beyond radio line of sight (BRLOS) aerial RPAS operations, innovative ATC operations and protocols to control mixed air traffic, innovative aerial sensors, methodologies, ICT systems and applications for aerial and satellite data analysis, …. Through the project, partners will develop and experiment RPAS configurations and flight procedures to insert RPAS in ATM, in example on-board avionics and ground components to enable satellite communication between RPAS pilot and ATCO (air traffic control operator), to enable more secure aerial platform command and control systems and datalink and payload data flow. Innovative flight procedures, functions for air traffic control, and communication protocols between pilot and ATCO will be tested through simulation, emulation and real flight tests exploiting the Grottaglie Airport (Taranto, Italy).

The realization of the project implies the creation of a laboratory to design, simulate (virtual and constructive) and validate RPAS missions. Systems and applications available in the laboratory will enable operators to simulate and validate flight operations before operating the real test and demo flights (de-risking) exploiting Grottaglie airport, authorized by ENAC, and the connected air spaces assigned to RPAS experimentation.

RPASinAir project adds value to the mission assigned to Grottaglie airport in supporting national aerospace industry (National Airport Plan, MIT 2016), and is another step in the roadmap of DTA: the new laboratory, connected with the airport infrastructure, will became an infrastructural resource to attract new R&D&I initiatives as well as investments. In the end, the laboratory will increase innovation capacity of regional and national aerospace industry.

Project activities, competences and results, that are aligned with Italian and Apulian Smart Specialization Strategy, will increase innovation capacity of industrial partners thanks to the participation and lead of the development of the laboratory and to the creation of critical mass of competences exploiting this new infrastructural resource.

Research partners will contribute in the economic and social growth by developing high tech solutions to face innovative and pressing scenarios and challenges (aerial monitoring through RPAS, application of advanced sensors, measuring workload of RPAS and ATCOs operators and its impact in flight safety, developing new nominal and contingency RPAS flight procedures, …). Moreover, involved universities will widen and improve their education offer accessing and developing new data and information related to flight operation experimentations, resulting in the increase of employability of graduated people.