RWTH to Test New Air Traffic Regulations for the Airspace Above the Rhenish Mining Area
Transport Minister Volker Wissing presents the funding documents for an air traffic research project.
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In the "U-Space Reallabor Rheinisches Revier" (U-Space R3) research project, future air traffic regulations for Europe are being tested with the participation of RWTH Aachen University. In a living lab in the skies above the Rhenish Mining Area, real-life tests are being conducted to determine how unmanned and manned aircraft can be operated safely in so-called U-Spaces according to uniform rules throughout Europe in the future. Now the partners involved in the project were officially presented with the funding document in Berlin by Germany’s Federal Minister of Transport Volker Wissing. The project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMDV) as part of the mFUND innovation initiative, with a total of 1.8 million euros until January 2025.
The consortium for the U-SpaceR3 research project includes flyXdrive GmbH, Droniq GmbH, and Vodafone GmbH under the leadership of the Institute of Flight System Dynamics at RWTH. Together, they want to get the airspace ready by installing U-Spaces for the safe, simultaneous use of manned and unmanned aircraft. Highly automated unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and air taxis offer altogether new transportation and mobility services in this scenario. For example, unmanned micro air vehicles (MAV) can safely transport urgently needed medical supplies between hospitals and laboratories and assist rescue workers in finding missing persons. Vertical takeoff and landing air taxis can quickly transport medical personnel to emergency patients.
Currently, the joint operation of manned and unmanned air traffic is possible only to a very limited extent. For safety reasons, air space users are separated by wide margins. In the future, it must be ensured that neither rescue helicopters on emergency missions nor commercial aircraft preparing to land are put at risk by unmanned aerial system operations. To this end, a Europe-wide regulation has already defined the structures and processes that will enable the safe joint operation of all aircraft in the future.
Putting Regulations to the Test in the Field
For these regulations to be tested in real-life conditions before U-Spaces are set up in different locations in Europe, a living lab will be established as part of the project. "The U-Space living lab in the Rhenish Mining Area offers us a unique opportunity to recreate difficult situations with manned and unmanned aircraft in a safe environment. Before these situations occur in real life, we can use them to develop safe solutions and show how they can be adopted in future real U-Spaces," says Sebastian Seitz, head of the research project and senior engineer at the Institute of Flight System Dynamics at RWTH Aachen University.
A new concept for easy integration of drones into the airspace lays the foundation for commercial drone use in Germany. With its help, federal Minister Dr. Volker Wissing wants to quickly bring drone traffic into practical use: "Drones have great potential for relieving the pressure on classic forms of traffic and for making our daily lives easier. As an industrialized nation, we want to be open to technology – also regarding using drones. With the U-Space concept, we are creating an important prerequisite for connected and automated air traffic in our country."
As part of the mFUND funding program, the BMDV has supported research and development projects related to data-based digital innovations for Mobility 4.0 since 2016. Project funding is supplemented by active professional networking between key players from politics, business, administration, and research and aided by open data provided via BMDV data portals.
For further information, please refer to the mFund page.
Presentation of the funding documents for the "U-Space Reallabor Rheinisches Revier" research project to the project partners: (from left) Droniq COO Ralph Schepp, Sebastian Seitz from RWTH Aachen University, Federal Minister Volker Wissing, flyXdrive CEO Johanna Holsten, and Benedict Deacon from Vodafone.