The many activities for which unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are used – from military through commercial to leisure – can lead to their sharing airspace with conventional aircraft. For separation to be maintained between all users of this airspace, it is essential that the altitudes of all of these aircraft be known unambiguously.
However, whereas conventional manned aviation uses pressure altitude obtained from barometric readings, UAS often use other systems such as satellite-derived altitudes. While each of these different systems can enable safe separation on its own, they can each furnish different altitude values from each other. A common altitude reference system needs to be established.
This document provides a basis for discussion on such a system, following a workshop and a series of webinars organised by EUROCONTROL in collaboration with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
There are many advantages and disadvantages, economic and technical, to all of the altitude measurement systems available. In the conclusions of this document, a solution is proposed that will enable two different systems to co-habit safely.