SAFIR consortium chosen to carry out U-space drone demonstrations in Belgium

The SAFIR consortium, a group of 13 public and private organisations, has today been selected by Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) to demonstrate integrated Drone Traffic Management for a broad range of drone operations in Antwerp, Belgium.

The SAFIR consortium (Safe and Flexible Integration of Initial U-space Services in a Real Environment) consists of organisations such as Unifly – a software platform provider for Unmanned Traffic Management, skeyes – Belgium's national air navigation service provider, and Amazon Prime Air – a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using drones.

The objective of the demonstration is to help SESAR JU, the entity responsible for coordinating all EU research and development activity in Air Traffic Management, contribute to the European Commission’s U-space vision of ensuring safe and secure access to airspace for drones.

SAFIR will carry out multiple studies and demonstrations in an effort to contribute to the EU regulatory process for drones and drive forward the deployment of interoperable, harmonised and standardised drone services across Europe.

Marc Kegelaers, CEO from Unifly, said: “SAFIR consortium partners are honoured to be selected for this innovative demonstration programme. While the consortium represents a broad range of use cases and services, we are united in one key aspect: an unyielding commitment to safety. We are excited about the innovations in the unmanned industry our group can bring to Europe. We will work diligently with our partners to ensure all operations are rooted in safe practices from day one.”
Johan Decuyper, CEO of skeyes: “skeyes is committed not only to its mission to ensure air traffic safety but also to our societal role of contributing to ecological goals, innovation, research, and economical evolutions. We are fully aware of the enormous potential of the drone sector and want to help develop it in Belgium and Europe in accordance with safety of air traffic.”
“Amazon supports the European Commission’s efforts to create a programme aimed at keeping the EU at the forefront of aviation and drone innovation,” said Gur Kimchi, Vice President of Amazon Prime Air. “At Amazon Prime Air, we’re focused on developing a safe, federated, and scalable airspace management model for autonomous systems, and we look forward to working with SESAR and EASA to make this a reality.”
Johan Maricq, Strategy & Innovation from Elia Group, said: “Moving forward with testing shared air space for new usage is definitely of high interest for the industry. As a utility company owning a large and critical infrastructure, being able to use unmanned aircraft for our activities is key to ensure a reliable and affordable operation of the grid in all circumstances.”

The consortium is funded by the SESAR JU within the framework of the EU’s Connected Europe Facility.

SAFIR consortium members

Lead consortium coordinator is Unifly, a global leader in the field of Unmanned Traffic Management. The Unifly platform connects authorities with pilots to safely integrate drones into the airspace. Authorities can visualize and approve drone flights and manage no-fly zones in real-time. Drone pilots can manage their drones and they can plan and receive flight approvals in line with international and local regulation.

Amazon Prime Air — a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using drones. Prime Air has great potential to enhance the services Amazon already provides to millions of customers by providing rapid parcel delivery that will also increase the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation system.

Aveillant, UK, part of the Thales group, offers radar technology for the ground-based detection of drones.

 skeyes is Belgium's national air navigation service provider, in charge of the safety of air traffic in the civil airspace above Belgium and part of Luxemburg and on six national airports.

C-Astral, Slovenia, is a drone manufacturer and aerospace solution provider.

Droneport is a Belgian ecosystem providing infrastructure and services to facilitate research, innovation and entrepreneurship in manned and unmanned aviation. DronePort Incubator is the home for startups, organizations and research teams developing, producing or servicing this new market. The test facilities guarantee segregated airspace giving the opportunity to train pilots and test and demonstrate new applications to customers in agriculture, construction, safety, logistics, etc. DronePort is developing a 15ha industry park located at Sint-Truiden with a specific focus on the aerospace and UAS industry.

Helicus, Belgium, a platform integrator that works together with air traffic control authorities, solution providers and industrial actors to support the healthcare industry in setting up medical transport as part of the smart cities initiative.

High Eye, The Netherlands, is an industrial VTOL UAV manufacturer specialized in long range flights. 

Port of Antwerp. As Europe's second-largest port, the Port of Antwerp is a major lifeline for the Belgian economy: more than 300 line services to over 800 destinations ensure global connectivity. The Port of Antwerp annually handles around 224 million tonnes of international maritime freight, and is home to Europe's largest integrated chemical cluster. The Port of Antwerp accounts, directly and indirectly, for a total of around 143,000 jobs and more than €20 billion added value.

Proximus Group is a telecommunication & ICT company operating in the Belgian and international markets, serving residential customers, companies and public institutions. Proximus’ ambition is to become a digital service provider, connecting everyone and everything so people live better and work smarter. Through its efficient, integrated fixed and mobile networks, Proximus provides access, anywhere and anytime, to digital services and user-friendly solutions, as well as to a broad offering of multimedia content.

SABCA is a key Belgian aerospace company with extensive know-how in designing, building, maintaining and upgrading large and complex components for aircraft and space launchers. The Unmanned Systems business unit offers a complete range of services to the UAS market.

Tekever, Portugal, is a drone OEM and technology provider specialized in the fields of Aeronautics, Space, Defense and Security. 

The Elia Group is active in electricity transmission. It ensures that generation and consumption are balanced around the clock, supplying 30 million end users with electricity. With subsidiaries in Belgium (Elia) and north-east Germany (50Hertz), it operates 18,600 km of high-voltage connections.

SESAR Joint Undertaking is the public-private partnership set up to transform air traffic management (ATM) into a more modular, scalable, automated, interoperable system that takes advantage of advances in digital and virtualisation technologies.

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About skeyes

skeyes ensures the safety and efficiency of air traffic in Belgium 24/7. The skeyes air traffic controllers manage over 3,000 aircraft every day, which makes up over a million flight movements per year. The autonomous public company is active at the heart of Europe, in one of the busiest and most complex sections of airspace of the continent. skeyes is active at Brussels Airport and at the airports of Antwerp, Charleroi, Kortrijk, Liège and Ostend. Thanks to its CANAC 2 control centre skeyes manages the flight movements above Belgium and a part of Luxembourg up to an altitude of 7,500 metres (*). The company relies on its nearly 900 experienced staff members who are at the service of their customers: airline companies, airports, the aviation sector and the authorities. skeyes also develops innovating services regarding drones and contributes to a sustainable future of the aviation sector, among other things with respect to the environment.

skeyes is a member of FABEC, a joint airspace block (Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland) with the aim of improving air navigation efficiency in the heart of Europe in the framework of the Single European Sky.

(*) The upper airspace of the Benelux countries and North West Germany is managed jointly with the EUROCONTROL centre in Maastricht. 


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