Second round of flights in the European Commission's SONORA project


From 20 to 22 November, the second round of flight tests in the SONORA (Support to Standardisation Actions for EGNOS and Galileo in the U-Space) program was carried out. SONORA is a European Commission project developed by a consortium led by VVA Brussels and which includes GMV, CATEC, MCI, and RP Legal & Tax.

Funded by the European Commission, the main goal of SONORA is to develop the future of the U-Space industry and unmanned aerial systems. U-Space covers all the services and procedures being developed to allow for a high number of orderly, smooth, and secure unmanned aircraft operations. The European Commission has established a regulatory framework that will enable automated management of drone traffic in a way that is integrated with manned aircraft. Spain’s Ministry of Transportation, Mobility and the Urban Agenda has established a National Action Plan for the Deployment of U-Space (PANDU) to comply with these EU regulations.

The SONORA project seeks to transform the industry by incorporating European Global Navigation Satellite System (EGNSS) services into its rules and regulations while encouraging the implementation of GNSS-based solutions in the U-Space environment. The EGNSS is a satellite navigation system offering positioning, navigation, and timing services throughout Europe. It is made up of two main components: the Galileo system and the EGNOS system.

Two series of flight tests are planned as part of SONORA, one in an open environment and one in an urban environment. The first took place in November 2022 at the ATLAS center (Tactical Center of the Air Traffic Laboratory for Advanced Unmanned Systems) in Jaén. The goal was to collect and analyze GNSS data, gathered by various pieces of equipment and technologies, to support the development and verification of standards and assess several new EGNSS services, such as Galileo HAS (High Accuracy Service) y OS‑NMA (Open Service – Navigation Message Authentication), in an obstacle-free environment.

The second round of flight tests for drones in the SONORA project took place between 20 and 22 November in Benidorm (Alicante province, Spain). Over the course of three days, participants analyzed the results of a study that was similar to the first set of tests, but took place in an urban environment, which is more challenging in terms of navigation, and included the use of GNSS receivers hybridized with other technologies, such as inertial measurement unit (IMU) technology, used to measure the acceleration and angular velocity of an object, allowing for in-depth motion analysis.

The tests will also help evaluate the performance of various GNSS equipment and system technologies (for example, GPS, Galileo, EGNOS, EGNOS's future DFMC, RTK-PPP, etc.) and enhance our understanding of unmanned air system operations in urban environments, through the emulation of Specific Category operations at the SAIL III risk level. This level is an index used to assess security risks in drone operations.

Based on further analysis of the test results, the consortium will provide feedback to the regulatory agencies with the goal of streamlining the authorization processes for medium-risk Specific Category operations (SAIL III-IV).

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