Tests of Europe's new U-Space concept underway in Port of Hamburg

Drone traffic system to form basis for expanded use
21 July 2021
UAVs in Port of Hamburg

Germany's first test field for drone airspace called "U-Space Reallabor" is being built above the Port of Hamburg, a press release said Thursday (July 15, 2021). The pilot project underway until November 2021 will investigate how drones can be safely integrated into the airspace. Backed by the Ministry of Economics in Hamburg, Deutsche Flugsicherung and its subsidiary Droniq GmbH are now setting up a U-Space Sandbox in the port. The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is putting EUR 492,000 towards the project. 

The U-Space concept, masterminded by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), ensures drones will have their own traffic system in future. Essentially, this network of services and procedures will make drone traffic easier and safer in co-ordination with manned air traffic. This should relieve areas with a high volume of drones. EU member countries must establish U-Space by early 2023. 

Tests of drones

Plans for the pilot project foresee a ten-square kilometre test area that extends into the airspace above the port, west of Moorburg. Drone flights are planned up to an altitude of 150 metres. Tests will focus on the communication between drones and other air traffic participants as well as on organising the airspace. The UTM drone traffic system, developed by Deutsche Flugsicherung, will serve as the basis for the real lab.

The planning phase ending in July will be followed by the technical implementation phase from August to September. During the last phase or flight weeks in October, practical demonstrations will highlight how a U-Space functions. Several partners including the Hamburg Port Authority AöR (HPA), HHLA Sky GmbH, the Ministry of Economics and Innovation, Hamburg Aviation and the UDVeo project consortium are behind the project worth a total of EUR 1 million. 

Huge potential of drone traffic 

Michael Westhagemann, Senator for Economics and Innovation, remarked: "The Port of Hamburg offers the best environment to test a traffic system for drones and evaluate the opportunities and challenges. Used wisely, drones offer enormous potential in a host of areas of business and society. As I see it, the U-Space Real Laboratory means we can test the potential offered by a new kind of air transport under real conditions and actively shape its development." As part of the Medifly project in Hamburg last year, drones successfully transported medical tissue between two hospitals efficiently and safely. 

Jan-Eric Putze, CEO of Droniq GmbH, pointed out: "U-Space will also allow the full potential of drones to be exploited in urban areas within an established framework. This is a milestone for unmanned aerial transport." The results of the tests over the Port of Hamburg will serve as a blueprint for establishing regular drone airspaces in Germany. Then, drones might be used for logistics, as support for rescue forces and for supplying rural areas nationwide.

Hamburg - EU model region for drones 

Hamburg has been part of the EU initiative to promote Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and thus an official model region for the civilian use of drones since 2018. Urban air transport is set to top the agenda of the ITS World Congress, which Hamburg is hosting from October 11-15, 2021 with the German Ministry of Transport. The congress is the world's largest event on intelligent transport systems (ITS) and acts as an catalyst of the ITS strategy adopted by the senate.