a new challenge
The use of airspace is undergoing a complete transformation with the emergence of a new type of traffic: drones. Unmanned, operating in very varied urban environments depending on their use or mission, drones represent a very buoyant sector from an economic point of view but one that is also very promising for other uses, particularly medical, because they enable very rapid transportation that is not dependent on road traffic, which is often saturated.
drone flights in controlled airspace were coordinated by the skeyes Special Activities Coordination Cell (SPACC)
professional drone flights were managed via the Droneguide app
SkeyDrone came into being on 10 February 2020. A wholly-owned subsidiary of skeyes, SkeyDrone specialises in drone operations. It offers planning, authorisation, management and coordination solutions for drone pilots and operators, and drone traffic visualisation tools, with a view to safely integrating them into air traffic. It also offers drone traffic surveillance services to authorities and critical installation operators.
In 2020, SkeyDrone focused on developing and marketing its software platform.
At the end of 2020, SkeyDrone, Proximus and DroneMatrix pooled their expertise to develop an integrated platform, enabling drones to perform missions on demand for industrial applications.
The platform will be named “6th NeTWorK” and is under development.
This date marks the entry into force of new European legislation devoted to drones with the basic principle that drones are permitted throughout the airspace except in specific areas – the so-called UASs (Unmanned Aircraft System) - where the use of drones is restricted to very specific conditions. As an operator of UAS zones in the CTRs (Control zones) of the airports for which it is responsible, skeyes defined and deployed an operational concept in 2020 to manage the use of drones in these zones. A new tool - Drone Service Application (DSA) - was launched on 30 December 2020 to facilitate the application of this operational concept, to inform drone operators and to refer them to the tools that SkeyDrone makes available to them.More info
Helicus Aero Initiative
skeyes also contributes to a public-private partnership bringing together partners from different backgrounds, the expertise of which is used to develop an optimal environment for deploying services based on the use of drones. The Helicus Aero Initiative - Scheduling, Connectivity & Security (HAI-SCS) project, initiated in 2019, achieved encouraging results in 2020.
All aspects are covered by the partners, including technological and logistical aspects (5G, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, etc.), operational aspects with the contribution of skeyes, as well as legal and regulatory aspects (insurance, contribution of regional innovation agencies).
Drones are also central to the SAFIR (Safe And Flexible Integration of Initial U-Space Services in a Real Environment) project to which skeyes has actively contributed. A demonstration took place in September 2019 in the port and city of Antwerp showing the safe and seamless integration of drone traffic into a complex environment. The project was finalised in 2020.
The encouraging results of the SAFIR project led to a similar project in the field of medical transportation in urban areas: SAFIR-Med (Safe and Flexible Integration of Advanced U-Space Services Focusing on Medical Air Mobility). The aim is to identify solutions for the integration of safe, sustainable and socially acceptable urban air mobility for the benefit of the community by focusing on medical applications. Launched in December 2020, the project provides for demonstrations similar to those of the SAFIR project in several cities including Antwerp. skeyes is committed to this ambitious project and will contribute its expertise in the development of an operational concept (CONOPS) for the completely safe integration of drones in the airspace.
SAFIR and SAFIR-Med are projects of the SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research).
The SESAR programme is the technological pillar of the Single European Sky. It aims to improve airspace management through the modernisation and harmonisation of ATM technologies and systems. Since the launch of SESAR in 2005, skeyes has contributed to numerous projects in the different phases (Definition 2005-2008, Development 2008-2024 and Deployment 2015-2035).
Safe landings regardless of visibility conditions
skeyes was part of the consortium selected to carry out landing validation tests using the EFVS (Enhanced Flight Visual System) at Antwerp airport.
The on-board camera system offers pilots an improved view of the runway and of the airport environment during approach and landing phases when visibility conditions are poor. This technology is of particular interest to regional airports not equipped with ILS CAT-II or CAT-III. It helps to increase not only safety, but also efficiency and capacity. The impact on the environment is reduced because aircraft do not have to be diverted to another airport if there is insufficient visibility.
The SESAR AAL 2 - EFVS (Augmented Approaches to Land - Enhanced Flight Visual System) project was finalised in 2020. skeyes played a leading role in the effective planning and execution of EFVS demonstration flights in Antwerp. These flights showed that EFVS technology is safe and relatively easy to implement.
Making aviation more environmentally-friendly is the ambitious goal of the Clean Sky programme. This public-private partnership brings together the European Commission and the aviation industry to develop advanced technologies that will help to increase the environmental performance of aviation significantly.
In June 2020, skeyes mobilised its expertise in the Dispatcher 3 project. It consists of optimising pre-flight operations, such as drawing up the flight plan, using data processing software that makes it possible to estimate the variability between a flight plan and the flight actually carried out. The Dispatcher 3 project will provide very valuable tools for dispatchers, pilots and planners to improve flight efficiency.
Digital control towers
Another development with the potential to increase the efficiency and flexibility of air navigation services in the future: digital control towers. They will make it possible to move away from a fixed building for airport air traffic control and offer air traffic controllers an even more accurate view of airport grounds and their surroundings.
In 2020, skeyes decided to gradually equip all Belgian airports with digital towers. A public procurement contract was subsequently launched and contacts were established with the regional entities to define all the aspects of this strategic collaboration. This innovative technology will propel skeyes and participating airports towards the digitalisation of air traffic control.
2020 saw the implementation of a strategic programme for the purpose of coordinating this ambitious technological but also human change.
new applications for permission to install wind turbines submitted to skeyes in 2020
received a positive opinion. The other applications are in the process of being examined or require additional information (68), were refused for safety reasons (24), or were withdrawn by the applicant (9).
new wind turbines that had previously received a positive opinion from skeyes were built and put into operation in 2020.