The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)-built Heron 1 medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial system (UAS) has carried out a series of flight demonstrations to replicate the integration of UAS into civilian airspace from the San Javier air base in Murcia, Spain.
Jointly conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA) and European Defense Agency (EDA), the flight demonstrations were aimed at collecting the data to form the basis for licensing, qualification and flight safety requirements for the successful UAS integration.
Timed to coincide with civil and military flights operating from the San Javier air base, the flights featured over ten carefully designed tests simulating real scenarios that are likely to occur in civilian airspace.
During the test flight, the UAS conducted terrestrial and maritime surveillance missions following take off from the Spanish airport, and the payload data collected from onboard sensors was transmitted in real-time to the Spanish Air Force’s control room in Madrid, using IAI’s secure Internet communication links (CRISP) system.
Observed by representatives from the Spanish Air Force and Army, European industries, ESA, EDA and Eurocontrol, the demonstration also displayed the drone’s ability to share civilian airspace with a conventionally piloted aircraft through communication using a satellite.
Simulating frontal and 90° collision trajectories, the manned aircraft approached the UAV, following which the aircraft obeyed separation instructions issued by the air traffic controller to avoid a collision.
Situated in the ground station in San Javier, the UAV operator was able to communicate with Spanish air traffic controllers in both San Javier and Barcelona.
Satellite datalinks were used for real-time transmission of communication signals between the different control centres and UAV, while a line-of-sight datalink served as a backup.
The demonstration was carried out as part of Demonstration of Satellites enabling the Insertion of RPAS in Europe (DeSIRE) project, which is supported by Indra-led industrial consortium comprising five European companies from France, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, Holland and Spain.
Image: A Heron 1 unmanned aerial system during its flight. Photo: SSGT REYNALDO RAMON, USAF.