Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems - RPAS

Apr 24, 2018

Start DateN.A.
Type of activity: workstrand
Participating Countries: All
Other partners: n/a

Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) have demonstrated their importance in recent military operations, particularly for surveillance and information gathering. RPAS can also offer a wide range of civil applications such as infrastructure surveillance, firefighting, disaster or environmental monitoring, as well as border control and management. RPAS have been earmarked as one of four capability development priorities by the December 2013 European Council.

Workstrand goals

    The European Defence Agency (EDA) divided its work in the field of RPAS into five main areas:


    • Integration of military RPAS in non-segregated airspace
    • Harmonisation of national processes for military RPAS airworthiness and certification
    • Development of cutting-edge technologies for future European RPAS
    • Development of synergies among Member States operating large military RPAS
    • Support to the development of a European medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) RPAS to be operational by 2025

    Detailed description

    RPAS Air Traffic Integration (ATI)

    The EDA approach to the insertion of military RPAS in non-segregated airspace is twofold: Key ATI technology development and compliance with the Air Traffic Management System, particularly in the context of the Single European Sky. 

    • Research & Technology

    EDA and its participating Member States are one of the main European contributors to the development and standardisation of key technical enablers for the insertion of RPAS in European airspace. To that end, EDA supports its participating Member States in several R&T projects (Ad-Hoc Programmes), and promotes and manages other projects with its own operational budget. Besides, RPAS ATI is one of the areas of the Pilot Project in the field of defence research.

    The main R&T projects are:

    • MIDCAS SSP: MIDair Collision Avoidance System Standardisation Support Phase

    The MIDCAS SSP is a follow up phase of the  MIDair Collision Avoidance System (MIDCAS), a project on demonstrating the detect and avoid function for RPAS. This is an Ad-Hoc Programme funded and managed by five Member States: Sweden (lead nation), France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The MIDCAS SSP industry consortium is composed of eleven companies of the five participating Member States.

    The aim of the MIDCAS SSP programme is to provide the technical content of a collision avoidance system standard proposal for RPAS and thus to contribute to the RPAS integration in civilian airspace by proposing a baseline of solutions for the “Unmanned Aircraft System Mid-air Collision Avoidance Function” acceptable by manned aviation. Successful flight tests and simulation campaigns were performed in 2015 and the focus is now on using those results to develop related technical standards.

    • TRAWA – Detect and Avoid – Remain Well Clear

    This is one of the Pilot Projects in the field of defence research funded by the European Union and managed by the EDA. TRAWA focuses on the RPAS Remain Well Clear (RWC) function and contributes to the standardisation activities in cooperation with other international efforts in the relevant expert teams within the EUROCAE WG 105.

    The identified key areas of work for the DAA Remain Well Clear standardisation are: RWC specification in quantitative terms and validation via simulations; specification of sensor types, detection ranges and position estimation accuracy; Remote Pilot Station’s HMI.

    • DeSIRE: Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe

    EDA and the European Space Agency (ESA) established their cooperation in the RPAS sector in 2010. Two feasibility studies were carried out in order to analyse the required work for demonstrations in the area of secure C2 data links for RPAS using satellites.

    Based on the results EDA and ESA launched the joint DeSIRE (Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe) project in 2012. The aim of the project is to demonstrate the safe integration of RPAS in non-segregated airspace using satellites capabilities for RPAS command and control, air traffic control communications and mission data transfer to ground, in order to satisfy the needs of potential user communities. The demonstration was carried out in Spain in Spring 2013 through several flights using a RPAS (Heron platform) providing airborne maritime surveillance services to the Spanish users involved in the project.

    A follow-on project (DeSIRE 2) with ESA was launched in February 2014. This activity contributes to prepare a midterm development of RPAS independent satellite data-link service. Close involvement of rulemaking stakeholders allowed for the seamless consideration of critical certification and rulemaking issues from the beginning. This principle, combining demonstrator development, testing generic functions and operational concepts, allows all relevant partners in European and international aviation to participate in the creation of a dual-use regulatory framework for safe RPAS operations.

    • ERA: Enhanced RPAS Autonomy

    RPAS automation is a key enabler for the integration of RPAS in non-segregated airspace, particularly to ensure the operation safety levels in degraded or emergency modes. Automation in RPAS take-off, landing, and taxi phases will be required for airport (civil and military) operation.

    The main objectives of ERA are to establish the technological baseline for automatic take-off and landing, autotaxi, nominal/degraded mode automation functions and emergency recovery. This will be done alongside support to the regulation and standardisation of these capabilities, by providing safety assessments, procedures, simulation and flight demonstrations .

    This is an Ad-Hoc project launched in 2015, funded and managed by Germany (lead nation), France, Poland, Sweden and Italy.

    • Remote Pilot Station Standardisation

    The RPAS regulatory framework needed to allow the operations of both civil and military RPAS in Europe should cover the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), the Command, Control and Communications (C3) link and the Remote Pilot Station (RPS). Whereas several R&D and standardisation activities are ongoing in the domain of the airborne and datalink subsystems, no standardisation initiative on Remote Pilot Station is currently on- going.

    The objective of this project, funded and managed by the EDA, is to launch, in coordination with EUROCAE and EASA, the required R&T activities that will support the standardisation of Remote Pilot Stations of RPAS with a focus on EASA’s certified operations category.

    • Accommodation of MALE-type RPAS: Scenarios and Safety Case Study

    Military operators are the main stakeholders in the area of RPAS operations in the conventional ATM system (i.e. excluding UTM, U-Space). Military RPAS will be the early adopters of IFR RPAS operations involving civil Air Traffic Control and, as such, they are expected to pave the way to enable this kind of operations between 2020 and 2030.

    RPAS Accommodation is defined by ICAO as “the condition when an RPAS can operate along with some level of adaptation or support that compensates for its inability to comply within existing operational constructs”. The “existing operational constructs” are not adapted to RPAS operation and until new operational constructs are in place (regulatory framework and required technology) all RPAS operations in European airspace will have a certain degree of segregation.

    The aim of this study is to identify the operational scenarios which will allow the military to operate the MALE-type RPAS with the minimum of segregation by ATM, meaning maximizing the efficiency of the non-segregated part of the flight, allowing to “operate like” manned aircraft under civil Air Traffic Control. Those scenarios will include the safety assessment of operational risks and define mitigations measures to be implemented to allow the buy-in of civilian authorities in those accommodation operations.

    Military RPAS in the Single European Sky

    The SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) Joint Undertaking (SJU) was requested by the European Commission to “further develop the integration of the RPAS in the European ATM Master Plan”. Inclusion of the drone/RPAS dimension into the Master Plan is crucial to give it the high profile it requires, facilitate access to EU funding, and also ensure its harmonious and coordinated combination with the European ATM modernisation.

    To facilitate the development of the RPAS Addendum, to the Master Plan, three Working Groups were settled in 2017: WG1 to deal with large MALE-type RPAS, WG2 for U-Space and WG3 for Standardisation and Regulation. The EDA was active in those three Working Groups who delivered the RPAS Addendum draft, which is currently under review. The Addendum includes a vision for the safe integration of drones (both large MALE-type RPAS and small drones), an operational and deployment view with roadmaps, as well as an initial business case of RPAS and drones deployment in Europe.

    In order to facilitate EDA Member States input on RPAS for ATM issues, the ESMAB (EDA Single European Sky Military Aviation Board) agreed to set up the RPAS ATI SEC (Single European Sky Expert Community) group in 2016. This group has the mandate to develop an ATI roadmap of dual-use strategy on RPAS regulation, in close cooperation with the European Commission, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), EUROCONTROL, SJU, NATO, JARUS, EUROCAE and other stakeholders involved in RPAS ATI.

    Military RPAS Airworthiness Certification

    Within Europe, military RPAS are certified by the national Military Airworthiness Authorities. Building upon the successes of the Military Airworthiness Authorities Forum, established by the EDA in 2008, the Agency is exploring together with national authorities and the ways to streamline the certification process for military RPAS at the European level. Significant time and cost savings, as well as harmonised safety requirements, can be expected from a common approach to airworthiness and achieving certification.

    An RPAS Airworthiness Regulatory Framework Working Group was established in EDA in March 2014 with the purpose of developing a harmonised set of airworthiness requirements and common classification and certification processes, in order to ensure that military RPAS can easily integrate into the future European Aviation System. The Agency expects that common military airworthiness and certification requirements for military RPAS will be available by 2018.

    European Military Cooperation

    In 2013, EDA formed the “European MALE RPAS User Community”. This forum was established to examine options for pooling and sharing in the MALE RPAS domain, but included countries who currently operated MALE RPAS or who consider getting the capability within a few years.

    The Community’s objectives are to:

    • Exchange information and facilitate cooperation among Member States who operate such systems in order to streamline resources;
    • Exchange operational experience and best practices of operating MALE RPAS;
    • Identify cooperation opportunities in the following enablers: training, logistics, maintenance of similar assets.

    Originally, seven Member States (France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland) were involved in this activity; however, in 2017/18, the group is likely to grow to include Belgium, the UK and possibly Switzerland who all share an interest in EDA’s MALE RPAS Training Technology Demonstrator (RTTD) project. The RTTD project seeks to deploy low cost, generic MALE RPAS simulators in each of the Member States RPAS Schools as a means to develop tactics, harmonise procedures, approaches to training and to further deepen the links between the different national user communities.  The simulators have been deployed at nine sites across Europe from November 2017 and will facilitate an ongoing exercise programme to be jointly organised with the Member States, EDA and the European Air Group (EAG).

    Future European MALE Capability

    Considering the obvious operational added value of MALE type RPAS for armed forces, and that challenges related to the air traffic integration will gradually be overcome, there is an opportunity for Member States to prepare the next generation of European MALE RPAS in a cooperative way.

    A Common Staff Target related to this capability was endorsed by the EDA Steering Board in November 2013. On that basis, four Member States (Germany, France, Spain and Italy) decided in 2015 to move forward and launch within an OCCAR framework, a two-year €65 million definition phase to pave the way for a full-scale development phase.

    Under the framework of the EDA-OCCAR arrangement, EDA provides support to this programme in the field of air traffic integration building on the work already achieved and on the on-going activities related to the integration of military RPAS in the Single European Sky approach. Meanwhile, the Agency also facilitates the entry of other European Member States into the programme at the development stage.

    European Non-Dependence

    RPAS offer a wide range of civil and military applications. The market ranges from small tactical mini and micro aircraft to large sophisticated systems. Investment in RPAS at the higher end has the additional benefit of helping to sustain European aeronautic competences in the design and engineering necessary for future manned fixed wing aircraft.

    Over half the cost of building a complex intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance RPAS is related to sensing technologies and data exploitation capabilities; excellence in these areas will be necessary for future industrial competitiveness in the global marketplace. At present there is the risk that Europe could become dependent on third country suppliers for such technologies. All EDA’s current activities in the RPAS domain are aiming at ensuring that this level of dependence is under control.


    Participating Member States

    • Belgium
    • Bulgaria
    • Czech
    • Germany
    • Estonia
    • Ireland
    • Greece
    • Spain
    • France
    • Croatia
    • Italy
    • Cyprus
    • Latvia
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Hungary
    • Malta
    • Netherlands
    • Austria
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Romania
    • Slovenia
    • Slovakia
    • Finland
    • Sweden
    • UK