who we are

Welcome to the Unmanned Aerial Systems in European Airspace (ULTRA) website.

ULTRA is a project funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme which is taking a new approach tothe insertion of Light RPAS for civil purposes in European Airspace in the short term with currently available technology. The project’s activities are conducted by the members of the ULTRA consortium representing a wide range of stakeholders from the RPAS domain.

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Background

The emergence of a dynamic and profitable RPAS (Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems) market in Europe, in particular for civilian applications, requires from national and European civil aviation authorities the setting up of adequate regulations defining legal requirements, security and safety criteria. While other industries tend to be reluctant to embrace regulation in their sector, RPAS manufacturers and service providers are keener for rules to be put in place in order to define the conditions that will allow this emerging sector to build business plans for future growth.

The industry has already voiced to the European authorities their need for an expedited timeline for approval of certain types of RPAS operations. In the absence of clear rules, a risk might occur of companies deciding, as has already happened in the USA, to continue to fly in the face of the law (without valid insurance), hence creating a clear hazard for citizens and running the risk that the industry itself is banned for years from the skies. But RPAS are also constrained by the low level of social and political acceptance for routine operations of these systems, even in a civilian context, due to the absence of rules and control.

The market of Light RPAS is already presenting a lot of potentialities for civil purposes that are unfortunately still facing a series of entangled challenges restraining business opportunities from taking off. One of the important elements is the significant lack of existing RPAS regulations and standards that keep the industry quite reluctant to invest and develop appropriate solutions due to the high uncertainty of the future granting of RPAS airspace access. This implies that all current technological developments and manufacturing activities remain limited due to their risky and expensive nature. The European civil RPAS market is steadily growing but still constrained and not harmonised, despite the great potentialities revealed by this new segment of the aviation industry, and the number of potential jobs that might be created in the domain.

European authorities have identified the importance of the sector and are now engaged in a set of actions in order to try to unlock the true potential of the RPAS. The European RPAS Roadmap has been developed in cooperation with all relevant stakeholders of the sector in order to define the actions to be conducted and the ad hoc guidelines to unlock the situation. Setting up the appropriate legal basis and standards should create the conditions for enabling the civil RPAS market to take off and break the current vicious circle that limits the growth of this innovative segment, thereby increasing the creation of new technologies. There is, at this particular moment, a clear opportunity for Europe to take leadership in the RPAS sector and to secure an advantageous objective position in what many RPAS studies are predicting to be a large and sustainable market.