D-Flight, the new platform for drone safety and security

04 March 2020

Drones accomplish a growing variety of tasks, and the number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles of all sizes crossing  the skies is increasing exponentially. They are used to inspect  pipelines, to provide aerial views in difficult to reach areas, to develop precision architecture, to control and protect entire regions, to monitor archeological sites, to control critical infrastructure and survey disaster zones. The need to define detailed and binding rules to safely fly drones and avoid interference with sky traffic, is undelayable and urgent. 

ENAV, the Italian air traffic service provider, is at the forefront of UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) regulation and has launched D-Flight, a company held 60% by ENAV and 40% by Leonardo and Telespazio together.  The task of D-Flight is to implement the U-Space platform, developed within the European Sesar programme for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Traffic Management (UTM).

Leonardo is the  System Integrator and designs the entire system, developing as well a good part of the software services, using the ‘Security by Design’ approach. Telespazio, with e-Geos, is in charge of mapping the areas where drones can fly  and will be more involved when the platform will be integrated in the satellite communication system.

D-Flight is a challenging technological task for Leonardo and implies planning and delivering a widely accessible and safe portal, that can offer independent web services, easy to use and update, and extremely reactive. The portal, in fact, will allow users to register drones in the Italian database, assign an identification code to each drone, and offer information for safe flying, in the respect of regulations.

The DIODE (D-Flight Internet of Drone Environment) testing gave a demonstration of what D-Flight will be able to deliver in the near future. DIODE was carried out in Rieti last September in the European Network of U-Space Demonstrators, an event launched by the EU Commission and co-financed by SESAR Joint Undertaking to develop the Single European Sky. The project, developed under ENAV’s supervision, involved  Leonardo, Telespazio and e-Geos along with several other Italian companies.

The DIODE test involved the handling of several drones flying simultaneously with an adequate level of security. The test was carried out over two days. Each day 6 different missions were launched (archeological survey, train infrastructure control, search and rescue of a missing man on the Velino river).  D-Flight actually exceeded expectations, delivering an excellent result, like the tracking that allowed to picture  trajectories and follow the different missions simultaneously. This test has given Leonardo important insight on the technical feasibility of these services, and how these can offer the required levels of safety and security.