Today, coastguard services are carried out by aircraft that are manned with on-board operators. However, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) technology and related sensor suites have now reached a level of maturity which can provide real added value to coastguard operations, notably through quicker deployment, greater autonomy, and the use of smaller aircraft. For these reasons, several government services have expressed interest in replacing (a part of) their fleet with RPAS applications.

This is where the AIRICA project (‘ATM Innovative RPAS Integration for Coastguard Applications’) comes in, with ATM being Air Traffic Management. Over the course of 2 years the project will show the feasibility of using RPAS for coastguard activities in non-segregated airspace. The AIRICA project is one of nine RPAS projects that have been selected for co-funding by the SESAR Joint Undertaking, with the goal of demonstrating the feasibility of integrating RPAS into normal air traffic by 2016.



Closing the Gaps for RPAS

By performing coastguard operations previously executed by manned aircraft in the North Sea area in real time, AIRICA aims to address remaining operational and technical gaps regarding the integration of complex RPAS operations into non-segregated airspace.

The envisaged coastguard operations will take place Beyond Visual Line Of Sight (BVLOS) and will involve (low-level) flights in different airspace environments. Following take-off from an airport, the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) will fly towards the targeted area over the North Sea, perform its mission, and fly back to the same airport.

Detect and Avoid

During this mission, the RPA will cross several different classes of airspace, where it will encounter different types of traffic. This means that the RPA must be equipped with appropriate sensors and on-board Detect and Avoid (D&A) capabilities in order to identify and deal with such traffic. For the purpose of this demonstration, a D&A system based on active Mode S interrogation and received ADS-B signals will be implemented and tested.

Simultaneous Non-Interfering

To optimally integrate RPAS operations with other traffic at the airport, the project will make use of and the test the feasibility of a Simultaneous Non-Interfering (SNI) concept for RPAS operations. To meet acceptable levels of air traffic controller workload, the demonstration will also assess a system that provides controllers with detailed live information about the RPA’s waypoint route navigation.


Netherlands Coastguard

Netherlands CoastguardThe Netherlands Coastguard is an independent civil organisation with its own tasks, responsibilities and competences. It is responsible for 15 types of operations in the North Sea area. To carry out these tasks, the Dutch Governmental Shipping Company and some participating ministries have placed nautical and aeronautical assets (equipment and man power) at the disposal of the Netherlands Coastguard.

NLR – Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre

NLR – Royal Netherlands Aerospace CentreNLR – Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre is a long-standing non-profit foundation for research and development. Its mission is to provide expert contributions to activities in aerospace and related fields. As an independent foundation, NLR provides services to public and private organisations, both national and international. NLR has been involved in D&A system development since 2004


SchiebelSchiebel, which will provide the RPA system that will be used for the AIRICA demonstration flights, is the developer and manufacturer of the CAMCOPTER® S-100. This highly versatile and reliable unmanned helicopter provides a unique balance of advanced capabilities, operational flexibility, outstanding performance and is in operational use in many countries worldwide. Founded in 1951, the Vienna, Austria-based Schiebel focuses on the development, testing and production of state-of-the-art mine detection equipment and the CAMCOPTER® S-100 Unmanned Air System (UAS).

Commando Lucht Strijdkrachten (CLSK)

Royal Netherlands Air ForceCommando Lucht Strijdkrachten (CLSK) is the operational branch of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. CLSK, through DutchMil, will provide the project with the required Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Air Traffic Information Service (ATIS). The RPAS test and demonstration flights will be executed under the control of DutchMil. CLSK will also support the project by providing intruder aircraft to test the D&A capabilities of the RPAS.


NLR furore drone

Detect and Avoid

Up until now, the majority of unmanned aircraft were not required not been equipped with Detect and Avoid (D&A) equipment, but given the envisaged coastguard operations and the non-segregated environment in which they will be performed, on-board D&A capabilities are essential. As part of the AIRICA project, D&A equipment will be integrated based on experience from an earlier project performed at the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), where a range of D&A functions have been developed, implemented, tested and demonstrated.

ADS-B and Mode S

The RPA will be equipped with an ADS-B transponder for detecting and locating other aircraft. It will also be equipped with a combination of active systems capable of interrogating Mode S transponders. The signals will be processed on board the RPA, but will also be sent to the Remote Pilot Station (RPS). The Remote Pilot will approve the proposed evasive action, before it will be carried out by the RPAS (semi-automatic mode).


The Demonstration Flight Campaign has been performed from 7 to 10 December 2015 at ‘De Kooy’ Den Helder Airport. The Schiebel S-100 CAMCOPTER® flew several missions during which the NLR AirScout Detect And Avoid (DAA) system capabilities were demonstrated. The intruder aircraft were a Netherlands Coastguard Dornier DO228 airplane and a RNLAF Alouette III helicopt

AIRICA-2 Camcopter in flight


The missions replicated a common coastguard operation in the North Sea area. The purpose of the demonstration was to show that the seamless integration of RPAS in non-segregated airspace is possible using relatively simple DAA system functionalities and straightforward communications with Air Traffic Control (ATC) with as little as possible impact on airport operations.

Non-Segregated Airspace

While performing a surveillance like operation within the mission area, the RPAS was under the control of the ATC. The (intended) intruders flew deliberately towards the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) to force the AirScout DAA system to generate an evasive manoeuvre trajectory to maintain sufficient separation. For safety reasons the actual encounters were performed within segregated airspace and with a vertical separation between the RPAS and the manned aircraft of 500 ft. The AirScout DAA system could recognize the actual (intended) intruder aircraft and simulated the same altitude to force the evasive manoeuvre.


The remote pilot was throughout the whole flight in full control over the aircraft. The remote pilot could have taken over control in case the on board DAA equipment would not have adequately reacted to a potential safety issue. However, this was not necessary because the AirScout DAA system performed as necessary.


AIRICA made a major step towards the safe integration of RPAS in non-segregated airspace. The project has successfully demonstrated the RPAS Detect And Avoid functionality during the execution of a Coastguard SAR mission. During the preparation and execution of the demonstration a lot of experience has been gained on several different subjects such as: regulations, organization, ATC interaction, airport involvement, and technical issues. Although adverse weather conditions prevented flights at the final demonstration day, it can be concluded that the preparations and previous flights during the Demonstration Flight Campaign at ‘De Kooy’ Den Helder Airport have been very useful both in result as in gaining experience with the integration of RPAS in civil airspace.