Unmanned Aircraft Systems, a civil-military outlook

Civil-Military UAS activities

Still today, most military UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) operations in Europe are restricted to airspace which is segregated for the purpose of protecting their operations. Alternatively, they are flown at very high flight levels, above those used by manned aviation, as well as over the sea using special arrangements.

Should operations be permitted outside segregated airspace, numerous restrictions may apply to ensure the safety of UAS and other airspace users. Given the time span needed for military UAS operations to be performed more efficiently, this is counterproductive to military and consequently state needs. 


EUROCONTROL specifications for the use of Military UAS as OAT

Consequently, we at EUROCONTROL have drafted Specifications for the harmonisation of ATC (air traffic control) procedures for military RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) flying in peacetime outside segregated airspace on the basis of Operational Air Traffic Instrument Flight Rules (OAT IFR). The Specifications relate to military RPAs flying as OAT, embracing flights both within and outside controlled airspace.

These Specifications were initially drafted under the EUROCONTROL Regulatory and Advisory Framework in 2007. Since then, they have been reviewed every two years.  The most recent edition was published in 2012 (see “Related links”).

EUROCONTROL’s Civil-Military ATM Coordination Division (CMAC) has been tasked by central authorities with keeping these guidelines up-to-date so as to reflect ongoing developments regarding the integration of UAS into non-segregated airspace.

These guidelines are still valid and in use today.  States decide whether or not to incorporate the Specifications into their national regulations.


EUROCONTROL Air Traffic Management for Global Hawk in European airspace

We consider that UAS integration into European airspace will be an incremental process. The introduction of GH (global hawk) is an important and essential early step in the successful accommodation and safe operation of this rapidly-emerging technology. 

Nevertheless, since GH lacks some of the capabilities of manned aviation, a number of specific ATM arrangements tailored to its operation are required.  In response to this kind of need, in 2012 we published guidelines specific to the use of EH (Euro hawk) and GH operations. They are currently reviewed every two years.

The guidelines are a sub-set of the EUROCONTROL Specifications for the Use of Military UAS as OAT and, accordingly, follow similar ATM principles.  They establish a set of minimum ATM requirements for GH/EH flights in European airspace, with the primary purpose of enabling GH/EH operators to use them as the basis for negotiating access to national airspace within Europe.  The guidelines provide for the isolation of GH/EH flights from other airspace users by requiring them to climb-out and recover in segregated airspace and to fly IFR/OAT in the cruise phase in non-segregated airspace at high altitudes, above those occupied by manned aviation.

These guidelines are also aimed at informing, educating and providing guidance to ANSPs (Air Navigation Service Providers), GH/EH operators and other stakeholders on the safe application of ATM for GH/EH.

They are non-mandatory.  However, it is expected that those States which allow GH/EH to fly in their airspace will incorporate many, if not all, of the guidelines into their national ATM rules and procedures.  


EUROCONTROL partnerships in regard to civil military coordination

In addition to the overall EUROCONTROL UAS activity, there are specific activities to liaise with, support and advocate military RPAS operations designed to provide expert support as well as to minimise their effects on civil flight operations.


NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)

With a focus on the need to accommodate current military operations of RPAS in European airspace, under the leadership of NATO, we are actively participating in several NATO working groups that directly support such operations to enable and prepare the safe conduct of RPAS operations.

This will facilitate the civil military integration of RPAS to the extent possible. The topics addressed are of an operational, technical and procedural nature, and include human factors.

With a view to having an active support body available at short notice, the NATO RAI IPT was founded with the robust and direct support of EUROCONTROL CMC and NM (Network Manager) in close coordination with the MILO (Military Liaison Officer).  

Supporting working groups have also been organised under the umbrella of the JCGUAS (Joint Capability Group Unmanned Aircraft Systems), the NATO group for organising the safe integration of UAS into non-segregated airspace).

FINAS (Flight In Non-segregated Airspace Working Group at NATO) is compiling available civil documentation from such bodies as ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), EUROCAE (European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment), EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) and EDA (European Defence Agency). They develop their own procedures only where required on account of specific military requirements.

EDA (European Defence Agency)

Future cooperation with EDA focuses on the facilitation of ATM and CNS requirements for military RPAS, RPAS standardisation, JARUS (Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems), FINAS (Integration, SAA, HF) and SESAR 2020. The coordination and development supports a shared understanding of the requirements for the insertion of military RPAS into the Single European Sky, in particular with regard to:

  • SESAR 2020 projects
  • MALE programme
  • ERA project for Automatic Take Off and Landing (ATOL)
  • Airworthiness Regulatory Framework for RPAS (ARF RPAS)
  • Various EDA projects (Desire, Desire II…)
  • JARUS C2 deliverables
  • FINAS deliverables

EASA deliverables

In addition, EDA RPAS research activities such as MIDCAS (Mid-air Collision Avoidance System project), ERA ATOL and the MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance RPA) user community will be an area of common interest.
ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization)

In 2014 ICAO set up the RPASP (Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Panel) to address the new challenges of UAS operating IFR internationally.  Some States, military and international military organisations have understood the challenge and are attending the panel meetings on a regular basis.

In the context of MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance RPA) / HALE (High Altitude Long Endurance RPA) integration and performance-based certification, it is important to include the civil-military dimension in work that will shape aviation in the domain for the next 25 years.

For us at EUROCONTROL, civil-military interoperability in general and the technical aspects of the command and control link supporting ATC communications and other CNS (Communication, Navigation and Surveillance) functions are important at that stage of the development of the future ICAO SARPS (Standards and Recommended Practices) and guidance material.


Edgar Reuber

Military expert