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The Bundeswehr Technical Centre for Aircraft and Aeronautical Equipment (WTD 61) and the German air navigation service provider DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung have successfully conducted tests on ways to counteract intrusive drones at the Technical Centre’s air base in Manching, Germany. The tests were based on the DFS air situation display, which was presented to the public for very first time. The system can identify cooperative (i.e. drones that transmit their location) and non-cooperative drones.
Pilots have been reporting more and more occurrences in German airspace where they have been impeded by drones. Whereas in 2017, 88 such sightings were reported, the number of occurrences rose to 158 in 2018. The events at Gatwick at the end of 2018, when a major airport was blocked for more than 30 hours by an unidentifiable drone, have shown that there is urgent need for action. Experts therefore agree that technical solutions to identify as well as counteract drones must be found.
At the drone presentation day, WTD 61 and DFS presented their research projects on drones together with a technology partner. In addition to the integration of cooperative drones into controlled airspace, this included the identification of non-cooperative drones. Above all, however, the protection against these non-cooperative and thus potentially dangerous unmanned aircraft systems was demonstrated. It was possible to detect different types of drones, verify them electro-optically and present them in an air situation display. This identification forms the basis for potential defence measures. A system was used which stopped the drone by means of a jammer and which is fully integrated into the command and control system. The use of an intercepting drone was also demonstrated.
DFS is a pioneer for drone projects in Europe
Experts at DFS have been working on unmanned aircraft systems for many years, and on the issue of drone tracking since 2016. The joint project with Deutsche Telekom, known as Drones Connected, uses the existing mobile network to transmit the position data of cooperative drones.
A series of field trials have demonstrated that this is a safe, efficient and reliable means of tracking. Feeding this data into the DFS Phoenix air traffic management system means that these data can be fused, or merged, with the air situation display of the whole of Germany.
The objective of the project is the creation of an air traffic management system for unmanned aircraft systems in the very low level airspace, known as UAS traffic management system, or UTM. DFS is a pioneer in Europe in this field and the project received the German Mobility Award in 2018.
"The aviation world is standing at a turning point.
Accepting drones as a normal airspace user opens up new worlds – but also poses new challenges as regards safety. We have shown the first solutions at the trials today," said Thilo Vogt, Head of UAS/UTM Development & Solutions at DFS.
Research and technology study at the Bundeswehr's Drone Competence Centre
WTD 61 is accompanying numerous defence as well as research and technology projects concerning UAS on behalf of the German Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw).
In the current study, the Bundeswehr is interested in better understanding the current stage of development and trends in communications, navigation and surveillance (CNS) and ATM-UTM as well as drone detection systems (DDS) for manned and unmanned aircraft.
This will form the basis for the development of its own view on aspects relevant for the military, which will be discussed as part of a civil-military cooperation with DFS.
Based on the stage of development and trends in CNS & ATM-UTM, military requirements will be formulated and incorporated at an early stage into development processes on airspace structures and unmanned aerial vehicles and traffic guidance.
For Peter Pörsch, head of the unit responsible for drones at WTD 61, drones are now at the same stage of development as the internet in 1995 and smart phones in 2008. "Nobody knows exactly what applications there will be, but we know that they will have a marked change on our environment. We are laying the foundation now. To be accepted, the technology has to be safe and have a clear value for society."