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The Gulf of Finland 2.0 project is innovating the safe airspace of the future – drones lift off at a test flight event on 21 September 2021

Published on 21.9.2021

Last edited on 22.9.2021

How would you like your orders to be delivered to your doorstep by a flying drone? And how do you feel about remote-piloted or fully automated unmanned aerial vehicles flying in perfect harmony with other air traffic? The international SESAR JU GOF 2.0 project is demonstrating, testing and assessing how unmanned aerial vehicles will be able to safely share the skies with manned aircraft in the future. 

“Unmanned aerial vehicles will be integrated into future aviation and the entire transport infrastructure. Our mission in this project is to anticipate and come up with solutions for how to achieve this integration safely and without challenging traditional air traffic,” says Sami Alkula, from Fintraffic Air Navigation Services.

The test flights carried out in the project will yield a deeper and more concrete understanding of how unmanned air traffic can be integrated into the same airspace as manned aircraft. The test flights will be held in Vantaa on 21 September 2021. The event will test safe integration in low-altitude airspace in an urban area in the immediate proximity of an airport. At the same time, it will assess the compatibility of various technical air traffic control solutions with the air navigation services that Fintraffic provides for manned flights.

The test flights will analyse safety, technology and operational processes

Test flights have previously been carried out under the GOF1 project in areas such as downtown Helsinki. Those flights focused especially on how to provide information and operating instructions to the pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles when they share airspace with an emergency flight, such as a police helicopter or Finnhems. Communication between air traffic control, the authorities and all aircraft in the airspace is also emphasised in the GOF2.0 test flights.

“The tests are being carried out in an urban environment in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace. As unmanned aerial vehicles are piloted by both professionals and tourists, we’re looking for ways to enable everyone to fly drones safely in our airspace and be informed about exceptional situations as quickly as possible,” says Alkula.

This time, the test flights will investigate not only safety, but also possibilities for providing different kinds of services with unmanned aerial vehicles, such as parcel deliveries. The first day of test flights will be followed by a second test flight involving physical flights with a drone and seaplane between Tallinn and Helsinki. This flight will focus particularly on testing how well the aircraft see each other in the air, but will also track the delivery process of a simulated parcel.

Test flights in close cooperation with air traffic control

The test flight in September will be held at the headquarters of the technology company Vaisala, located right on the border of the controlled airspace of Helsinki Airport. Vaisala is contributing to the GOF 2.0 project with its expertise in meteorological measurements, equipment and analysis to develop means of obtaining more accurate and real-time meteorological data about the low-altitude airspace used by unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Weather affects the operations of all flying craft. With our solutions, we want to contribute to the safe and efficient operation of drones and air taxis as well as the evolving traffic ecosystem,” says Tapio Haarlaa, Head of Aviation, Strategy and Business Development at Vaisala.

Several types of drones will take to the sky on the day of the test flights. The event will involve not only physical drone flights in airspace, but also simulated flights in which data on various scenarios will be fed into ATC systems. On the test flight day, one will be able to watch the drones in the air – and screens will be set up to display the progress of the flights and tests. The event will be videoed from the air and highlights of the footage will be compiled.

“We work in close cooperation with air traffic control to ensure that we can carry out the test flights safely in the proximity of the busy airport. Air traffic is currently quiet due to the state of the world – this means that we have the opportunity to perform test flights in controlled airspace in slots allocated by ATC. We also want to hear the views of ATC on the possibilities for integrating unmanned flights,” says Alkula.

Partners from several countries are on board

In addition to Fintraffic Air Navigation Services, the following parties are on board the GOF 2.0 project (in no particular order): Robots Expert, Frequentis, Airbus, Aviamaps, EANS, CAFAtech, Drone Radar, THREOD Systems, PANSA, Ehang, PSNC, Vaisala, Dimetor and Unmanned Life.

“In the 2022 pilot of this project, we’ll demonstrate a service that utilises a wind lidar to measure wind and turbulence data from different air layers. We’ll also demonstrate similar technology in Paris, France in another project. We follow development in this sector, participate in selected projects and seek to facilitate innovation with our own strengths,” says Haarlaa.

This test day has been preceded by GOF2.0 test flights in Tartu and Tallinn. Testing will continue in September-October in Poland and Austria. In early 2022, a roadshow will tour Sweden, Denmark and Latvia. Similar flights will be held in summer 2022: their content will be developed on the basis of the lessons learned and insights gained from the current round of tests.

“At this stage, we’re still simulating air taxi flights – but a suitable vehicle has already been built in Japan. It’s only a question of time before here in Finland you’ll be able to hop onto an air taxi to travel safely from the airport to the centre of the city,” says Alkula.

Follow the test flight day on Fintraffic’s Instagram: @fintraffic_stories_fi

For more information on the project, go to: https://gof2.eu

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