AT-One recently signed a research contract contributing to a project to study the feasibility of allowing an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to operate in the airspace, with satellites supporting the UAS communication system. The client for this project is the European Space Agency (ESA) and the main contractor is Indra Espacio.
Indra selected AT-One based on its strong strategic alliance (DLR- German Aerospace Centers Institute of Flight Guidance and NLR- National Aerospace Laboratorys Air Transport Division) framework in the field of Air Traffic Management and the possibility of establishing a European joint cooperation. AT-Ones role in the project will be to study how best to integrate a UAS mission in airspace from ATM perspective, while retaining the highest aviation safety standards. NARSIM, the Air Traffic Control Research Simulator, will be used in this research to simulate air traffic in the airspace. For this project, a special UAS simulation model, including a ground station, will be developed for use in the simulator. Supported by trained air traffic controllers, researchers will determine what type of information air traffic control needs to allow air traffic to proceed in a seamless and orderly fashion when a UAS is also operating in the airspace. In addition, the researchers will study response times needed for air traffic control and the UAS. Moreover, the research will determine whether it is vital for air traffic control to be specifically informed when a UAS is operating in the airspace. Indra meanwhile is responsible for the research module that will study the satellite-relayed communications between the various ground stations. This research will determine what the consequences are if signals are lost or delayed, as well as devise solutions for such eventualities. This project will run until August 2010. It is expected that ESA will continue the research in 2011. During the follow-up study all possible situations will be studied should a UAS operate in the actual airspace.