• Project ID TERRA
  • Project duration 2017-10-01 > 2019-09-30
  • Cost
    • Total EUR 937 000
    • EU Contr. EUR 937 000
  • Status Closed

TERRA analyses the performance requirements of drone operations in very low-level airspace and identifies the ground technologies (existing and new) which could meet these requirements, proposing a technical architecture to support the operations.

The project aims at establishing technical solutions that can be the basis for future standards to safely support drone operations by:

  1. Leveraging existing state-of-the-art, and potential new technologies, to develop elements of a ground-based U-space architecture that will:
    • accommodate a large base of drones (autonomous and remotely piloted);
    • in a mixed mode (manned and unmanned) environment;
    • focused on VLL operations, with potential extension to other flight domains;
    • paving the way for autonomous operations.
  2. Demonstrating proof-of-concept of critical elements of this architecture:
    • Explore architecture’s resilience to off-nominal operations (e.g. ADS-B link loss, GPS outages, etc.)
    • Ability to accommodate various hypothetical (drone and manned) traffic levels.
    • Explore a matrix of concept of operation for different scenarios, from modern day to fully autonomous.


The TERRA project intends to provide an adequate solution to drone user requirements in terms of ground-based systems for U-space, identifying accurately these requirements, examining and developing the appropriate technologies and conducting a gap analysis in order to propose an efficient and safe architecture of systems, as well as providing a proof of concept for the initial architecture and systems.

First of all, the requirements identification is done by identifying a complete set of business cases and their operator´s market demands, which are transformed in terms of navigation and positioning capabilities, communications, surveillance, flight plan route changes and avoidance capabilities and flight information requirements.

The operational requirements are transformed into functional requirements and, in parallel, an analysis is made of technologies and tools that can potentially be applied to U-space. Potential new technologies are explored, including e.g. candidate machine learning methods algorithms for early detection and classification of flight path deviations. A technical and economic gap analysis is conducted of existing and proposed U-space technologies, to assess their ability to meet the previously defined functional requirements.

Once the most appropriate technologies have been chosen, a high level system architecture is defined to provide an adequate framework to meet the operational and functional requirements previously identified, including a specific study on the integration of the identified technologies.

Finally, the suitability of recommended technologies to support U-space for drone VLL operations is tested using a simulation facility. The Environment is composed of several subsystems integrated via High Level Architecture (HLA) protocol, and comprises several environments such as a Synthetic Environment for scenario definition and simulation of communications.

Expected benefits

Outcomes from the project will provide a clear identification of the required infrastructure to support VLL drone operations, thus enabling and enhancing safety and consequently creating safe operational conditions for the generalized use of drones in uncontrolled airspace, but which could be applied also to controlled airspace, with a myriad of applications and substantial economic growth impact. The project will also facilitate an overview of the technological development required to achieve these conditions, paving the way for the standardization and industrial development of these technologies

Results and proof-of-concept conclusions will serve as a basis to identify in advance which technologies and methodologies will be needed for a full implementation of the VLL drone environment, avoiding potential risks of technology obsolescence, due to that fact that the proposed technology architecture aims to cover all stakeholders’ requirements in the near future.

Ground-based ATM technologies must comply with high standards requirements in terms of accuracy, integrity, availability and continuity. User requirements for the U-space airspace will identify the required technology performance for the ground technologies. With drone operations growing exponentially, a million operations in a day are expected by 2025 around.

The results of this project are considered an essential enabler for the full development and deployment of drones in the VLL environment, to overcome current problems with unclear, uncoordinated, and/or overly-restrictive regulatory regimes. The definition of U-space ground system architecture will therefore allow the organized grow of this emerging market, offering society the environment required to achieve the potential benefits of expanded and safe drone operations.


This project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 763831

European Union