It is expected that, by 2035, our skies will go through a profound change. Where currently airspace is sparsely occupied by larger aircraft at higher altitudes and by small leisure and commercial aircraft closer to the ground, the rise of commercial & civil drone usage would lead to a much denser form of air traffic at VLL, with many more interactions between air traffic participants. This poses a considerable challenge from a traffic management point of view.
The challenge is to find a robust and interoperable technical solution that is suitable for the smallest of drones. Importantly, many of these drones are envisaged to operate autonomously. The solution will have to be lightweight, energy efficient, and allow for autonomous avoidance manoeuvres even on the smallest of drones.
In reference to the SJU Annual Work Programme 2016, this topics covers Section 3.5.3 (e) 2) topics a) to e) for long term aspects.
This project will answer the question: “How can drones best leverage a sensor suite of state-of-the-art electronic sensors and communication devices in order to make a safe, robust and interoperable VLL UTM solution for e.g. detect-and-avoid that still fits on small drones?”
The mobile phone industry has spurred an unprecedented advance in the production of small electronics, which has resulted in a plethora of sensors, processors, and communication devices, including small cameras, tiny radars, structured light sensors, microphones, and small communication devices. It is possible that, by combining these sensors in the best way possible, a common solution to VLL UTM could be found.
For full robustness, the solution should involve both collaborative conflict resolution and, for where collaborative systems fail or are not present, non-collaborative conflict resolution. For non-collaborative conflict resolution, multiple sensors should be investigated and combined in a single, lightweight sensor and navigation package, in which sensor data-fusion leads to high robustness. It should also be investigated how this solution would perform in densely-populated areas, with drones flying in an urban environment or even indoors. Also, it will have to be investigated how the interaction should be shaped with a potentially very connected ‘Internet of Things’ environment.
The topic should research sensor selection, data fusion and supporting procedures to fully describe the proposed solution.
There is expected to be a significant rise in the number of small drones operating in the VLL environment, which is largely uncontrolled but still used by manned aviation. Implementation of a sensor suite able to be carried by small drones and capable of avoiding other drones, manned aircraft and other obstacles would significantly assist the growth of the small-drone sector and enable its safe operation in all classes of airspace.