On 20 July, a drone passed within 350 feet (one hundred metres) of a Lufthansa Embraer 195 airliner during its approach to Warsaw airport. The collision was narrowly avoided but this incident underscores the urgency of putting systems in place allowing today's airplanes and drones to share the same airspace safely.
The French national school of civil aviation (ENAC) is well aware of this, and has just created a research post in UAV systems. The objective as explained by Marc Houalla, ENAC’s Director will be to overcome the technological obstacles so that drones can work together with aircraft, in a mutual airspace. This is what is called ‘‘Detect & Avoid’’. Over the next three years two researchers will thus try to establish concrete solutions to this problem, and will not be alone.
Some drone manufacturers, such as the start-up Airborne Concept, for example, are working on a UAV detection solution via an ADS-B transponder. This would allow air traffic controllers to spot the drones as a radar echo and thus execute air traffic circulation procedures in accordance with the situation. A solution which will be presented to the French Directorate General of Civil Aviation next September, and which Airborne Concept hopes will come into force within the next two years.
The detection of drones and especially that of preventing them colliding with aircraft, now seems a priority, and one that has a double interest: to strengthen air safety of course, but also to allow the young ‘‘drone industry’’ to realise its full potential.