Autonomous Service Drones for Safety-Compliant European Operations

Research output: ThesisPh.D. thesis

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The drone legislation was unified across the European Union (EU) on the 31stof December 2020. This new legislation divides drone flight into three categories:Open, Specific, and Certified. Operations utilizing drones’ potential in society,such as overflight of populated environments and Beyond Visual Line of Sight(BVLOS) flights, are placed in the Specific category due to their inherent risk.The Specific category requires the operator to perform a risk assessment of theoperation based on the Specific Operations Risk Assessment (SORA) framework.This risk assessment must be approved by the national civil aviation authority.However, acquiring such operation permission is a complex process. This is provenby the lack of abundant SORA-based operations taking place in the EU. This research explores how to create a systematic mapping between the technical SORArequirements and drone technology and methods, thereby systematizing the process of achieving operational approval for Specific category drone operations inthe EU.

This work has produced methods and technological solutions by performing action research on real-life challenges in research projects and industry. The developed solutions solve risk mitigation challenges within the areas of ground risk, containment, and assurance provision. A generic drone test platform has been created and used for testing an independent fail-safe system for ground risk reduction and containment, a multi-pilot receiver module for avoiding BVLOS operation in strategic areas, a technical drone description structure for version control and comprehensible specification presentation, and a framework for indoor, autonomous durability and fault testing. Additionally, a tether concept to safely operate heavy-lift drones has been produced. A suggested means of compliance for drone system analysis, required by EU regulations for medium to high-risk Specific operations, has been proposed. Finally, a model-based code
generator for generating input drone data for the system analysis tool has been developed, easing access and reducing time spent on system analysis. The contributions have been compiled into an Optimized SORA Process (OSOP), leading the user to the appropriate solutions given a drone and a desired operation. Elements from the OSOP have helped researchers and industry partners to achieve operational permission in a range of scenarios under the SORA framework. The OSOP covers some of the technical challenges faced when performing a drone risk assessment. It has been tested on small multirotor drones, vertical take-off and landing logistics drones, and heavy-lift multirotor drones. Further research should strengthen the optimized process by applying it to a wider range of drone platforms and operation scenarios while also proposing methods and technology for the risk mitigation challenges not treated in this work, such as detect and avoid in regards to other airspace users.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Southern Denmark
  • Jensen, Kjeld, Principal supervisor
  • Lundquist, Ulrik Pagh Schultz, Co-supervisor
Date of defence17. Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 20. Feb 2023


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