Future Airspace clarification : U-Space and ADS-L systems

Clarification regarding U-Space and ADS-L systems & Electronic conspicuity device Guidance from FLYMASTER

Lately, FLYMASTER has noted been a lot of noise, rumors, and misinformation regarding topics such as Live Tracking, ADS-L, FLARM, among others.

Discussing any of these topics is not easy, and it can fill several pages with text that may not be very interesting for most of us pilots. However, we have become aware of cases where incorrect information is leading Flymaster customers to make potentially poor decisions. In order to prevent this, please read the following paragraphs where we hope to clarify a few important issues.

About ADS – L
Mainly due to the increased number of drones, a framework comprised of a set of “new services” and “specific procedures,” named U-Space, has been developed. The aim of this framework is to enable the safe, efficient, and secure integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into airspace used by manned aircraft, particularly in low-altitude airspace. The U-Space platform also encompasses the U-Space airspace where UAS and manned aircrafts operations are allowed. In order to fly in U-Space, one must be “seen,” meaning one needs to be electronically conspicuous to U-Space service providers in compliance with SERA.6005.

SERA.6005 specifies various means to be electronically conspicuous. One example is the already existing certified ADS-B OUT system compliant with ICAO Annex 10, which is known to be impractical for paragliding. For light aircraft such as paragliders or hang gliders, and in accordance with SERA.6005, a short-range device (SRD) capable of transmitting on the 860 frequency band can be used. This device must comply with the format documented in the technical specification ADS-L 4 SRD-860 (currently the only published specification). Alternatively, a standard mobile telephony application can be used, with the information transmitted in compliance with the format documented in the technical specification ADS-L 4 MOBILE (currently under development and to be published).

It is important to note that being electronically conspicuous does not solely rely on the airborne device. It entails the development of a complete U-space solution involving various entities, including national authorities. As illustrated in Figure 1, messages sent by airborne devices need to be received by ground stations and then retransmitted to at least one U-Space service provider (USSP). Important to note that the framework does not entail Aircraft-to-Aircraft communication, which means it is not intended to provide a “real-time collision” avoidance service, such as FLARM offers.

Fig 1 – e-Conspicuity Concept (iConspicuity & ADS-L EASA – CASIA meeting 9 May 2023, Vladimir Foltin)

In light of this, the U-space solution comprises an airborne device installed on the aircraft, ground stations capable of receiving messages from airborne devices and retransmitting them to one or more USSPs (U-Space service providers), and finally, the USSPs themselves.

Current Situation of U-Space platform implementation
The current situation differs for each of the three platform elements.

Regarding the device that makes the aircraft electronically conspicuous, currently, the only possibility is to have a short-range device (SRD) capable of transmitting on the 860 frequency band, as only the ADS-L 4 SRD-860 specification is published. All Flymaster models with a FLARM module are ADS-L 4 SRD-860 ready. It is expected that the ADS-L 4 MOBILE specification will be published soon. Based on our understanding of this specification, it will allow all Flymaster models with Live Tracking capabilities (both new and old series) to be electronically conspicuous and ADS-L 4 MOBILE compatible.

Regarding the message reception infrastructure, for the same reason, it is currently necessary to have a ground station capable of receiving the 860 frequency band. There are already ADS-L 4 SRD-860 compliant ground stations available on the market, such as the ones used in the Open Glider Network project. The visibility of each aircraft depends on the existence of a ground station within range, so the coverage in flight depends on the existence of a network of compatible ground stations. Once the ADS-L 4 MOBILE specification is published, it will be possible to use the existing GSM network to increase coverage.

Regarding the U-Space service providers, there is not much information available. According to the information we have, final decisions have not been made regarding how many will exist, who will develop them, and who will be responsible for their operation.

How and when U-Space will affect free flight
Considering that the main objective of U-Space is to allow the integration of unmanned and manned aircraft in areas without ATC service, it is probable that most of the current non-controlled airspace used for free-flight practice will be converted to U-Space airspace, thus requiring aircraft to be electronically conspicuous. However, the implementation of a U-Space platform is a very complex task. It involves all EU countries and within them many different entities, something that usually implies an extensive roadmap with a very long timeline.

According to the information we have, it is possible that the first U-Space implementation experience will occur before 2025, but a widespread complete solution will take a few years before it comes to fruition. When it does, all means specified in SERA.6005 to be electronically conspicuous will be available and integrated into the platform.

And so for Flymaster users, we can assure you that all instruments which include FLARM modules are already ADS-L 4 SRD-860 compliant, and all the instruments which include a GSM module (Live Tracking capabilities) have everything to be compliant with the not yet published ADS-L 4 MOBILE specification.

Meanwhile, there are already some initiatives to bring together all means of being electronic conspicuous, including ADS-L. The most well know are the OGN project, and SafeSky. Flymaster is already send data to both of these platforms.