023 - Belgian Secure Certified UTM

023 - Belgian Secure Certified UTM

Status: On Going

Activity Code: NAVISP-EL3-023

Start date: 20/12/2022

Duration: 18 Months

The European Air Transportation Systems as well as the Space Missions ground segments are large and complex “systems of systems” based on legacy and state-of-the-art technology. Like other industrial control systems, they have unique performance, reliability, and safety requirements. 

UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) are well on the way to becoming a major player in the field aviation and a important of tool for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) missions such as deliveries, industrial inspections, law enforcement operations, mapping tasks, agricultural applications, etc.  On the military/defense sector, the recent war in Ukraine is showing how much drones become fundamental in modern warfare. On top, worldwide a lot of research efforts goes into UAM (Unmanned Aerial Mobility) comprising the whole ecosystem carrying drones for goods as well as people. 

The future integration into manned airspace of UAS operations opens a totally new market and a challenging environment. Yet, this is also very attractive and eye-catching for cyber-attackers due to its high level of automation.

 To foster this new technology, the European Commission has adopted a new set of drone regulations called ‘U-space’ aiming at the safe and secure integration of drones into the existing airspace. This is done true the implementation of what is called an Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system.  Such a UTM system provides authorized drone operations in line with applicable restrictions and regulations by geographically deconflicting drones operations and provides situational awareness both to drone operators and manned aviation.  This software platform is characterized by its high level of automation, machine and network interfaces. This makes the system particularly attractive to cyberthreats and attacks, and malicious interference. 

The integration and acceptance of UAS/drones into the current commercial airspace operations poses a risk to safety and security in the event of successful cyberattacks targeting network links, cloud infrastructure or GNSS signals.  In such a case, the risk of loss of life or damage to critical national infrastructure becomes real. 

Eventually, in order to unlock the full potential of the drone economy and UAM applications, Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) systems will eventually need to adhere to the same level of safety and security and certification standards as current Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems for manned aviation with the difference that it cannot rely on on-ground infrastructure to determine the position of the drone: there is no human interaction nor any heavy and expensive on-board devices.

The determination of the drone position and navigation for UTM therefore becomes a fundamental element to avoid conflicts and must be secured as much as possible against any potential threats in such a new eye-catching scenario.

The assured security of navigation signals, UTM software and network infrastructure against attacks, the capability to measure and quantify that risk, and the effectiveness of the countermeasures developed to mitigate it, as well as certification of the overall system, will become a valuable and mandatory asset in the near future.  This is an asset which the consortium intends to develop with this project and put at the disposal of the national Belgian ANSP.  In a next step we envisage of future wider scale exploitation. 

Therefore, the aim of this activity is to:

  • Define a cyber certification scheme for UTM in the EU, compliant with the EU Certification Framework and with the applicable EU regulations for UTM and drones.
  • Design, develop and deploy the first UTM compliant with a cyber certification scheme to ensure protection against cybersecurity threats and attacks by implementing a ‘security-by-design’ process.

To achieve this, the cyber certification scheme for a UTM (compliant with the EU Certification Framework and input from European aviation stakeholders such as EASA) will be defined, security and user/system requirements will be collected, a compliant proof of concept (PoC) of a secure national UTM for the Belgian airspace will be designed and developed, and a conformity assessment will be successfully performed in accordance with the elicited certification scheme. A further objective is to “securely” inject the PNT data of drone operations into the traffic management system, giving to National Authorities the ability to have hands-on experience with the UTM and to validate the features and capabilities pitched by the “security-by-design“ approach.

Prime contractor


Name: Unifly

Country: Belgium

Website: https://www.unifly.aero


RHEA Group

Name: RHEA Group

Country: Belgium

Website: https://www.rheagroup.com

Last Updated: 08/02/2023 07:32