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Information Management Portal to Enable the inTegration of Unmanned Systems

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - IMPETUS (Information Management Portal to Enable the inTegration of Unmanned Systems)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-02-29

"Over the next 10 years, it is anticipated that the number of civilian Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) operations will increase significantly in Europe and USA. A significant percentage of these drone activities such as delivery and e-commerce, inspections, agriculture or public safety and security will take place in Very Low-Level (VLL) airspace. This expected growth of UAS movements in rural, as well as urban areas, indicates the need for unmanned traffic management solutions. SESAR addressed this challenge by defining U-Space as “a set of new services relying on a high level of digitalisation and automation of functions and specific procedures designed to support safe, efficient and secure access to airspace for large numbers of drones"".
IMPETUS took into consideration drone market needs and emerging information technology solutions to propose a cloud-based server-less environment based on the application of the ‘micro-services’ paradigm to deliver a solution which can be cost-effective, scalable and capable of enabling both market-based mechanisms for information provision as well as public governance and oversight required for safety and regulatory compliance. Since information management is an infrastructural prerequisite of future unmanned traffic management systems, the results support the European goal to gain in prosperity by means of the job and business opportunities of an emerging drones market."
IMPETUS identified the information needs of drone users by defining a drone information lifecycle that best supports the flight lifecycle of a drone. Results showed that many of the ‘apparently’ big differences between ATM and U-space have to do mainly with scale aspects –such as geospatial scales, the scale of operational timeframes, the scale of heterogeneity in vehicle types, performances, etc. – and not so much with the nature of the functions and services involved in the operational picture, which are in essence the same.
This information then flowed into the development of a reduced set of U-space services in support of drone operations. The implementation of these services was based on the ‘micro-services’ paradigm, aiming at exploring lightweight decoupled services, with a clearly defined functionality and simple interactions. The services were tested in a series of experiments that reflected the nature of future drone missions and simulated expected quantities of service users.
Concerning the U-space architecture, the project was able to elicit key features which would need to be implemented, such as a common infrastructure to interface with clients and exchange information across the ecosystem, a service discovery module to detect new services as they become available as well as authentication layers (for registering services, clients and data sources) and configuration layers (in which the rules of the architecture are defined). Results of tests on the micro-service architecture showed clear advantages over monolithic implementations, such as architecture robustness by design, resistance to failures due to continuous status monitoring as well as automated service failure mitigation actions.
Results of tests on individual U-space services showed many promising benefits of the concepts that were tested. For instance, the use of probabilistic micro-weather services for drones showed significant improvements over current, static weather forecast accuracy at 3h look-ahead time. Results on mission management showed clear benefits on mission trajectory optimisation using cost functions to help refine four-dimensional trajectories of drones. Concerning the management of drone flight plans a conflict-resolution scheme was tested and validated which would mitigate the need for centralised flight plan de-confliction. Finally, de-confliction of drones at a tactical level was tested and showed that a concept in which virtual “weights” are added to each drone, which in turn defined the separation criteria, was an efficient way to provide dynamic separation.
Results of the exercises were then translated into a series of conclusions on the services tested and their technical feasibility as well as on service performance and maturity. Services were mapped onto the architecture proposed in the U-space ConOps to highlight the conceptual processes for information management that IMPETUS devised for the services. In addition, IMPETUS identified discrepancies with the U-space guiding master documents and suggested updates to their corresponding sections. Maturity assessments of the services summarized the current state of the service and provided a list of gaps that IMPETUS identified. These gaps include the need to perform further tests in dense urban environments to improve weather prediction in these areas, additional tests on the effects of trajectory uncertainty in mission and flight planning and the requirement to perform additional safety performance, security and environmental assessments on the provision of dynamic capacity management services.
Finally, recommendations were provided concerning initiatives for standardisation and regulation on a service-by-service basis. Recommendations covered needs for standards on minimum service performance, level of safety, interoperability with other services and security as well as additional requirements for regulations. One of the most important findings was that current standards are sufficient for building up the U-space service architecture, which should rely on the use of existing SWIM data formats and common, open-source communication protocols. However, it is important to define which standards should be used for inter-service communication and how these services should communicate. Therefore, we recommend the development of regulated interfaces with the core elements of the U-space architecture, which can be accessed through agreed data exchange protocols, as well as the provision of a regulated service discovery mechanism, through which approved U-space services can be identified.
IMPETUS consolidated the requirements of crucial U-space services, contributing to increasing their maturity beyond the state of the art. The addressed U-space services are drone-specific weather provision, drone flight planning management, monitoring and traffic information provision as well as dynamic capacity management and its relation with tactical deconfliction for drones.
On the other hand, IMPETUS proved that the ability for services to be independently deployed through a microservice-based architecture will provide the flexibility required for rapid and agile increments of the overall U-Space capability as well as benefits on cybersecurity, safety, scalability, data management and economic feasibility. Thus, the solution proposed by IMPETUS will allow the evolution of U-space services overtime, considering that U-Space will be a highly complex system of systems and is only going to become more so as the drone operators will increase, and new services will be required.
The dissemination and exploitation activities allowed the successful handover of IMPETUS results to appropriate stakeholders. Specifically for exploitation, the results of IMPETUS identified as suitable for direct exploitation by stakeholders were the micro-service applications models and the recommendations for standardisation of information data and for the regulation of U-space information management procedures.