Belgocontrol and the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA), together with the company Unifly, are developing two digital platforms to assist both recreational and professional drone users in their activities. All applications will be operational by the end of this year.
Last year Belgocontrol and BCAA joined forces to take measures for managing drone traffic. The number of unmanned aircraft in the Belgian airspace is increasing every year, as does the number of incidents. The two organisations want to create a clear framework based on the legislation in force.
The first step consists in collecting digitally all information on the use of drones in our country. The public procurement that was issued for this purpose has been awarded to Unifly, a young Belgian company that has expanded to become the European leader in the Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM). Unifly technology already proves its usefulness on a national scale in Germany, Denmark and Austria. The aviation authorities use the Unifly platform to manage drone traffic and to advise the local drone pilots on where they can fly.
Website and mobile app
A first application will result in a website for the general public where a map will play a key role. This map indicates all areas that are prohibited for drones (temporary or permanent). The website also provides general information and useful links, and should already go live this spring.
Besides the map functionality, a mobile app will offer a number of practical features. For example, recreational drone users will be able to prepare and validate their flight – in view of the applicable restrictions - and indicate when they will start and stop their flight. This option should be available by the summer.
The app comprises additional, more advanced functionalities for professional drone users. But they have to create an account for using them. With the app they can manage their drones, pilots and flights, request clearances and possible exemptions at the directorate-general Aviation of the Federal Public Service Mobility, and fully monitor their flights. The app will also provide all kinds of aeronautical information needed to plan a flight. These extra functionalities should be available to professional drone users by the end of this year.
Johan Decuyper, Belgocontrol CEO: “First of all, we want to continue ensuring safety of all air traffic in our country. To this end we must respond flexibly to technological developments such as drones. But we also want to actively support this sector in its further evolution. After all, many applications with drones contribute to social progress and economic prosperity. We see it as our role to facilitate and stimulate this evolution.”
François Bellot, Minister for Mobility: “The drone sector is constantly evolving. The applications are almost endless. Thanks to the Royal Decree 'Drones', a safe working environment has been developed. The new IT system will enable BCAA and Belgocontrol staff to guarantee safety as well as a smooth handling of the increasing demands for flights. Safety is paramount in aviation and thanks to further digitization the staff concerned can fully focus on this”.
Marc Kegelaers, Unifly CEO: “I am very proud that Belgocontrol has opted for Unifly for implementing a national system for the safe management of drone traffic. With this project, Belgocontrol becomes a pioneer in UTM. Through the far-reaching integration with various functions, the system meets the drone community stakeholders’ expectations. This project will participate in the drone sector growth. An important point here is the thorough simplification and acceleration of the application procedure for drone flights. Our young company is recognized worldwide as the leader in UTM. Belgocontrol and BCAA are working together in this project to achieve the most extensive innovation in the field of drone traffic in Europe."
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