We are all ONE in the sky: where are we now?
Since the beginning of 2021, the European Commission (EC) has been discussing moving to the next stages in the U-Space regulation. On 23 February, a voting session took place, and the U-Space Regulatory package has been approved.
Following the open letter sent to the EC and Member States at the end of January, the representatives of the “We are all ONE in the sky” industry group have been in regular contact with the EC to address the concerns we raised. Our group has received extensive clarifications of the points we raised through the open letter, some of which are meant to be addressed through the Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMCs) and Guidance Materials (GMs).
Despite numerous comments from the Members States, as well as from our group, the EC decided to go ahead with the voting process and ultimately, the approval of the U-Space regulatory package.
Following the approval meeting, the industry group addressed a letter of congratulations to the EC and EASA, all while reiterating our availability and interest in supporting the development of AMCs and GMs and suggesting the establishment of an EASA Stakeholders’ Advisory Body (SAB) Drones Committee.
Dynamic Reconfiguration of Airspace
The High-Level U-Space Regulation aims to provide a safe and flexible concept that can be adapted by the Member States in terms of the complexity and granularity of the dynamic reconfiguration provided in individual U-space airspaces, depending on market demand and safety considerations. The concept is used due to the absence of common rules of the air or validated detect and avoid solution and will lead to ‘dynamic’ segregation between manned and unmanned air traffic for safety reasons.
The procedures to implement the concept of dynamic reconfiguration will be further developed in the context of the U-space AMC/GM working group. In any case, manned aircraft, whether General Aviation or Commercial Air Transport will continue to receive traffic information from Air Traffic Service Providers (ATSPs) and never from U-Space Service Providers (USSPs).
Common Information Service Provider (CISP)
Each element of the common information will come from a single source, as there is no scope for competition, or risk of duplication, in the provision of common information. The default approach remains that of a distributed architecture: each data originator, e.g., Member States’ authorities, ATSPs and USSPs, being responsible for the distribution of the information they produce, and such distribution will be included in their certification baseline (for ATSPs and USSPs). However, Member States now have the explicit option of designating a single entity to provide the common information service on an exclusive basis.
Responsibilities and Liabilities
ATSPs remain responsible for the provision of air traffic services to general air traffic flying according to ICAO flight rules (Instrument Flight Rules or Visual Flight Rules). ATSPs requirements related to the dynamic reconfiguration of the airspace and the sharing of operational data with USSPs are introduced in an amendment to (EU) 2017/373.
Regarding the USSPs, they will provide U-space services to UAS operators only, in U-space airspace. They will strategically de-conflict Unmanned aircraft systems’ (UAS) flights in U-space airspace through the provision of the UAS flight authorisation service and will provide tactical support to UAS operators through the traffic information and dynamic geo-awareness service which may include information about manned and unmanned aircraft.
Business and financial aspects
The financial aspects are not addressed in the U-Space Regulation, but the Commission proposal foresees that the pricing for the provision of pre-existing operational data is based on the marginal cost of making the data available for the U-Space users. Thus, the provision of data that needs to be generated specifically to provide common information services (CIS) is subject to full cost recovery (including a mark-up). This includes the cost related to the dynamic reconfiguration of the airspace, which is part of the CIS. As every provider of common information has a monopoly for generating and disseminating the specific data which it is providing, national supervisory authorities are responsible for assessing and approving the price setting for the provision of the common information services.
As a result, these costs will be borne by the U-space airspace service providers and ultimately the users of the service, i.e., the UAS operators. They will not be included in the enroute charges.