U-space services for UAM operations exploiting space assets

On the 15th October 2021, the project “U-space2 – U-space services for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operations exploiting space assets” was started. The project was proposed by the Italian partnership composed of Distretto Tecnologico Aerospaziale (DTA), lead, and d-flight, Arthur D. Little (ADL), g-nous. The project is funded by ESA through the call “Space for Urban Air Mobility”, part of the ARTES 4.0 Generic Programme Line “Business Applications and Space Solutions (BASS)”. The project is a feasibility study and will support the development of U-space services, enabling Urban Air Mobility, by integrating space services.

UAM refers to the system that enables on-demand, highly automated, passenger or cargo-carrying air transportation services at urban, peri-urban and inter-urban environment usually in a low altitude airspace. The most mature UAM applications involve drones for short-range surveillance or package delivery, but passenger UAM services are expected to mature in few years, eventually exploiting manned aircrafts.

The European Space Agency promotes the exploitation of space technologies for the benefit of development and growth of new aviation services. UAM appears to be a leading innovation service promising high benefits to cities and to European citizens in terms of novel mobility services, reduced mobility carbon footprint, economic growth and new high-tech jobs.

The U-space2 project will define the architectural role of space services such as SatNav, SatEO, SatCom as well as other services like METEOSAT in an Advanced and Specialised Traffic Information Service (A/S-TIS) satisfying EU and national regulation requirements and providing value added air traffic information to the several UAM stakeholders, first of all the UAS operators and secondarily to other urban mobility stakeholders, i.e. municipalities, local police, smart city solutions developers.

Space services will complement ground technologies in providing safe and secure UAM solutions. Satellite Navigation Systems (SatNav) represent the main assets, possibly integrated with ground-based navigation systems, the cascading effect of precision and accuracy of GNSS into A/S-TIS and its impact on situation awareness and safety of the integrated manned/unmanned air traffic will be studied. A/S-TIS is provided to end users on geo-referenced maps, including terrain and obstacle models provided by exploiting SatEO indeed precision of Earth maps impacts on UAM corridors design. In some UAM scenarios, UASs are required to have a communication continuity that needs to involve Satellite Communication services. Other space services are expected to have relevance in the development of UAM, the most impacting being weather forecast and ADS-B services.

The project will start by collecting problems, needs and requirements from a wide range of expected users (UAS operators) and potential users (urban operators, LEA, smart city solutions developers, then the A/S-TIS architecture will be designed by updating the one already implemented by d-flight and integrating the most suited space services. The economic aspects and technical issues will be deeply analysed to also define the economic value of the service and a preliminary mock-up will be prepared to demonstrate the viability of the results. Partners are strongly committed to this project and will work to develop and deploy the system after the project conclusion.

DTA has launched the U-space2 project in the frame of the wider programme Grottaglie Airport Test Bed (GATB) aimed at building a national centre for research, experimentation, and demonstration of UAS technologies and systems and on insertion of UAS into airspace of any class. DTA has also established the Drone Living Lab in collaboration with the Municipality of Bari and ENAC (Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile), the Italian Civil Aviation Authority with the objective to promote and support UAM experimentation and business cases in the frame of Bari Smart City programme.

D-Flight, that is company of ENAV group in partnership with Leonardo e Telespazio, will exploit project results and is committed at the GATB. It is involved with the objective to participate in UAS flight trials and demonstrations with its experimental services and to design U-space2 services for vertical applications.

ADL, building on top of its strong knowledge and experience in the field, will realise a study to assess the economic scenario of the A/S-TIS and motivating (if the case) its future development.

g-nouos will lead the analysis of ground and space technologies and their impact on quality of A/S-TIS and the potentialities of Artificial Intelligence technology to support UAS operators in assessing the traffic conditions in which he/she is operating. The U-space2 project, building on the experience already realised by a leading Italian network nurtured by DTA, will enable more effective U-space services, will support the development of UAS operations and UAM, and will contribute at the development and growth of Apulian aerospace system.