Nine drones with different configurations were tested by four of the most important operators in Spain, two of them Andalusian: CATEC, AERTEC Solutions, Alpha Unmanned Systems and Quaternium.

During the first fortnight of September, the ATLAS experimental flight center, located in Jaen, has hosted a flight test campaign of up to nine drones, in order to advance in the definition of noise certification procedures for this type of aircraft. These tests are part of a research contract signed by the Andalusian consulting and engineering firm ANOTEC with the European Aviation Safety Agency, EASA, which has promoted the development of this activity since the current procedures, designed for manned aircraft, are not today directly applicable to drones, due to the characteristics and diversity existing among this type of aircraft (such as fixed wing, helicopter and multirotor, whether they are with combustion, electric or hybrid engines).

Different variants of flight and instrumentation procedures have been investigated during the tests carried out at ATLAS, in order to evaluate the most practical solution, weighing factors such as precision, cost and reproducibility. For this, a large deployment of measurement equipment was carried out, both on the ground with 6 microphones, 2 meteorological stations and 3 high-resolution digital cameras that allowed drones to be located independently, as well as on the aircraft themselves, which were equipped with centimeter precision positioning systems and professional navigation and control systems, which allowed the performance of flight profiles with a minimum deviation from the desired trajectory for optimal measurement by the deployed microphones.
Added to the technological complexity of these tests was the logistical challenge of having 9 drones available and instrumented at the scheduled time, provided by 5 different operators, all of them well-known to national and European level: CATEC with two multirotor platforms and one with a fixed wing; AERTEC with its TARSIS 75 Kg fixed wing platform; Alpha Unmanned Systems with its Alpha 800 helicopter, and Quaternium with its Quaternium Hybrix hybrid engine multirotor platform.

The ATLAS Center, the best scenario for this type of operations
To guarantee the performance of the tests in time and with the highest quality of the data obtained, ANOTEC chose the ATLAS flight center facilities, since it has the possibility of segregating an airspace of 1050 km2 up to 5,000 feet in height in a sparsely populated area. This allows obtaining the flight permits that are required to carry out more complex operations out of the pilot’s line of sight, such as those required by larger aircraft (such as the Tarsis-75, in this case).

Thanks to the results obtained by ANOTEC, a potential test test has been developed and positively evaluated that will allow noise certification for those drones that require this type of certifications, at the same time that it has developed a description of common flight procedures for all types of unmanned platforms for the measurement of noise levels.

Because of new EU drone regulations from January 1 2021, this type of initiatives funded by EASA provide the national aeronautical sector with endless future commercial possibilities, at the same time allowing it to stay at the European forefront in the unmanned aircraft sector and, more specifically, in the demarcation of the ATLAS flight center as the most conducive to European level for this type of operations given its weather, facilities and segregated airspace.

In the coming months it is expected that these first results will be reinforced by new flight campaigns through which it is expected to close a standard procedure for noise certification of all possible drone casuistry, giving Andalusia the possibility to be a pioneer of this type of procedure and benefit from the economic advantages that this would entail.