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.
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.