With the increase in the use of drones and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) within the aviation sector, a concept known as U-space was created to ensure that safe, secure and efficient drone operations could take place within the airspace.

The following article defines the concept, development and purpose of U-space and why it is becoming one of the most vital systems in today’s evolving airspace.

What is U-space?

U-space is an airspace of certain geographical zones defined for use by unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators that were designed to manage and coordinate drone operations to ensure they operate in a safe and efficient manner.

In comparison to traditional aviation, U-space is similar to the Air Traffic Management concept, as the U-space procedure was established to manage large numbers of drones, much like the air traffic control manages crewed aircraft. However, there are some additional requirements, unique to uncrewed operations. U-space services aim to integrate drones into the airspace using advanced technology to ensure that a wide variety of operations can be used simultaneously.

There are a number of stakeholders that play a role in an efficiently functioning U-space, including regulatory bodies, service providers, operators and the general public.

The Key Components of U-space

There are 5 main key components of the U-space framework to manage drone traffic: 

  1. U-space Airspace: This is a specific geographical zone designated by Member States where unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations are only allowed to take place with the support of U-space services. 
  2. U-space Services: These are the foundational services that support drone operations, such as registration, electronic identification, geofencing, and flight planning. They ensure that drones operate within designated areas and follow established protocols.
  3. U-space Infrastructure: This includes the physical and digital infrastructure needed to support U-space services, such as communication networks, surveillance systems, and data exchange platforms.
  4. U-space Service Providers: Entities responsible for providing U-space services, ensuring compliance with regulations, and facilitating the safe integration of drones into the airspace.
  5. Users and Stakeholders: These include drone operators, manufacturers, service providers, and regulatory bodies who interact with and benefit from the U-space ecosystem.

The Development of U-Space

The concept of U-space was a collaborative effort between several institutions and organisations, including the European Commission, EASA, SESAR Joint Undertaking and various national aviation authorities such as the Swiss FOCA.

Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) played a vital role in the early development and implementation of U-space. During his time at FOCA, Murzilli Consulting’s CEO, Lorenzo Murzilli created and became the Programme Manager of the Swiss U-space Implementation (SUSI). 

SUSI is a unique public-private partnership agreement between the Swiss FOCA and more than 30 industry stakeholders to collaboratively create U-space services in Switzerland. The organisation has developed a comprehensive framework for U-space that includes key services such as registration, geo-awareness, flight authorisation, and tracking.

What Does the U-space Regulatory Framework Look Like?

As of June 2024, there are currently three implementing regulations in place in Europe regarding U-space. Murzilli Consulting’s CEO, Lorenzo Murzilli and Director of Regulatory Affairs, Juanjo Sola were among the 7 Member State representatives along with the European Commission, EASA and Eurocontrol who designed the U-space Regulation 5 years ago. Although the regulatory process is always evolving, here are the current regulations:

Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/664

This regulation:
Identifies essential services for U-space such as;
🔸Network Identification Service
🔸Geo-awareness Service
🔸UAS Flight Authorisation Service
🔸Traffic Information Service

Defines the regulatory framework for U-space which includes;
🔸U-space Service Providers (USSP)’s must be certified by EASA or a relevant national civil aviation authority
🔸Setting the limitations on operational conditions for UAS operators to comply with
🔸Ensuring USSP’s coordinate with Air Traffic Service Providers (ATSPs)

Outlines the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders which are;
🔸UAS Operators must comply with regulations, use U-space services, and report any incidents or irregularities.
🔸USSPs and CISPs provide mandatory U-space services, ensure data integrity and maintain certification standards
🔸Regulatory bodies enforce compliance with U-space regulations, certify service providers and oversee risk assessments

Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/665

This regulation integrates U-space requirements into the air traffic management framework such as coordination requirements, ensuring compliance and certification and outlines the responsibilities of Air Traffic Service Providers.

Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/666

This regulation is to ensure that all crewed aircraft operating within a U-space have the required technology to be detected and tracked by U-space service providers. This ensures that crewed and uncrewed aircraft can both fly safely within the same airspace.

Benefits of U-space

To align with the primary safety and efficiency aims within the airspace, U-space services have been developed to provide many benefits, including:

Challenges and Future Perspectives of U-space

Due to the current complex and evolving status of the U-space, there are several challenges that can cause roadblocks when it comes to the system’s potential:

Coordination with the local regulation, defining U-space/airspace and USSP certification are three major ongoing components to align the future perspectives of U-space.

Murzilli Consulting’s team of U-space experts have a vast range of experience with U-space including being part of the development of the U-space regulation (Lorenzo Murzilli and Juanjo Sola), leading the U-space deployment in Spain (Marina Estal), participating in the U-space deployment in Spain (Juanjo Sola) and acting as technical lead for software solutions (Pawel Trominski) for our collaborative remote ID project with Baringa, working on developing a strategy for any future UK Remote ID requirements for drone and remotely piloted services.

With our combined background, we have formulated a set of services to assist with these challenges which includes supporting organisations, government officials, cities and industry stakeholders on such projects as approval processes to become a U-space service provider (USSP) or establishing a U-space airspace.

Remote ID and Its Role in U-space

Remote ID, is the identification process used to read a drone’s identification data during flight. It alerts UAS operators to other traffic surrounding their flight path.

There are two forms of remote ID, direct and network. Network remote ID is an essential part of developing a U-space as it is mandatory as per Regulation (EU) 2021/664 which states that the network remote identification service must be maintained throughout a drone operation.

For a more comprehensive overview of remote ID, please refer to Murzilli Consulting’s previous articles, How to Successfully Implement a Remote ID Strategy Proposal and An Introduction to Remote ID for UAS Operations.

As the drone industry continues to integrate into the traditional aviation sector, it is important to document the steps that have been taken and what still needs to be developed. U-space services and processes are still maturing, however, they play a large part in enhancing the capabilities of the future of innovative air mobility within Europe and worldwide.

For more information or further questions, reach out to me, Pawel Trominski and I will be happy to support you, pawel@murzilliconsulting.com