Poland announces EUR164 million investment in U-space and related services

Poland announces EUR164 million investment in U-space and related services

  • Thanks to the implementation of the investments included in the National Recovery Plan (NRP), Poland has a chance to become one of the European leaders in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
  • The beneficiaries of the NRP projects worth €164 million include entrepreneurs, manufacturers of UAV, operators and pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles, public order services, local governments, health services, research and scientific institutions
  • The Polish Economic Institute assumes that within 5 years the value of drone integration into the Polish economy will increase to 576 billion PLN

Unmanned mobility on a par with dual-use space technologies has been identified by the Polish government as a breakthrough technology that could play a significant role as part of the post-pandemic recovery.

Following the approval of the National Recovery Plan (KPO) by the Senate and the European Commission, Poland will allocate PLN 740 million for the development of unmanned mobility. The 10 priority projects included in the KPO to be implemented over the next 5 years will allow Poland to maintain its leading position in the implementation of the U-Space environment – informs Deputy Infrastructure Minister Marcin Horała.

The Polish Economic Institute estimates that the value of the Polish civil drone market in the next 5 years will be at the level of PLN 3.26 billion, and the value of the impact of drone integration into the economy in the same period will reach PLN 576 billion.

However, exploiting the potential of drones, including further increasing the demand for tasks using BSP, requires strengthening institutions and creating strong centres of competence to integrate the often currently fragmented projects and initiatives.

As announced by the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, 20% of the entire Reconstruction Fund will be allocated to digitisation. Poland will take advantage of this opportunity. The funds from the National Reconstruction Programme will allow for development with dynamics that guarantee Poland will remain one of the leaders in unmanned aerial vehicles. By 2026 we can create a mature BSP environment in Poland, with U-space areas, which will be the most advanced environment of this type in the world – says Marcin Horała, Deputy Infrastructure Minister .

Under Component A “Resilience and Competitiveness of the Economy” of the National Reconstruction Programme, infrastructure for the management of unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) traffic is to be developed, competence centres including specialised training centres, monitoring centres, support for deployment and end users are to be developed and equipped.

The submitted projects were divided into 4 key groups:

  • Investments fundamental to the U-space environment – supporting the development of advanced UAV flights on a massive scale
  • Pro-development investments – construction of the Technology Park for Drones
  • Market stimulation projects, including pilots
  • Practical implementation for law enforcement services

Most of the budget – more than half a billion – may go to the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency, which is already implementing a pioneering and so far the only one in Europe operationally implemented PansaUTM system in the aviation environment, based on digital coordination of UAV flights and digital management of applications and permissions for such flights. The Eurocontrol report shows that Poland, compared with other European countries, performs exemplarily.

One of the main objectives of the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles are activities supporting the creation of a friendly environment in Poland for further development of the BSP services market, i.e. the implementation of the U-space concept, assuming safe and effective integration of manned and unmanned aviation. Under KPO, PANSA would implement three key projects: the development of infrastructure within the Drone Technology Park and the construction of the Monitoring and Command Centre for Law Enforcement Services – Coordination Centre. Due to the scale of the projects and their innovative character, the establishment of an entity responsible for the development of the area of unmanned mobility, which would take over tasks related to the organisation of investment projects, is also being considered – informs Minister Horała.

The Polish Air Navigation Services Agency would be responsible for developing infrastructure to support the development of advanced UAV flights on a mass scale, including in particular:

  • coverage of the entire lower Polish airspace by ground-based infrastructure for UAV tracking
  • providing funding to airspace users for the purchase of aircraft position tracking infrastructure, so that the position of aircraft flying in uncontrolled areas will also be visible to systems relating to air traffic coordination and management, including in particular UAV
  • development of ICT tools to inform systems about the intentions of manned traffic (tool for space users)
  • implementation of DTM solutions (drone traffic management in a dedicated isolated airspace) for autonomous flights in subsequent areas, based on services already implemented under the Digital Poland Operational Programme DTM Autonomy
  • development of ‘BSP flight risk assessment – e-SORA’ service for the acquisition and processing of ground traffic data used for UAV risk assessment.

In this part of the project, it is also planned to introduce technological solutions that support space users’ awareness of safe use of space and provide tactical (on-line) non-verbal coordination – communication of UAV pilots with managers of a specific zone.  It is planned to create and develop a mobile application that will perform these functions. Its ongoing development will allow for dynamic response and adaptation of functionalities to market needs, which in turn will allow for the highest possible level of support for UAV operations.

Three UAV competence centres and a monitoring centre are to be established by the end of the third quarter of 2026. The implementation of 10 local UAV traffic management infrastructure projects is also expected to be completed by this time.

The NIP funding also assumes the construction of a Drone Technology Park in Poznań by 2026, together with the construction and equipping of a NaviLab laboratory and the construction of a comprehensive test area with a NaviSpot test airport.

The aim of the project is to build a team of R&D experts, to develop a model ground infrastructure in Kąkolewo (testing ground) and to build a test area between the airport in Kąkolewo and the PANSA’s Air Traffic Control Centre in Wysogotowo, to develop standards for ICT devices (ground and mobile), mounted on unmanned aircraft. “This will enable full integration with the CPK manned air traffic management system. As part of the project, a model of the environment for managing autonomous flights will be created,” informs Minister Horała.

Similar projects are already underway in other European countries. These include SkyGate in Turin, Italy, the Eurocontrol Experimental Centre (EEC) in Brétigny, France, and the Spanish BCN Drone Center in Barcelona.

The construction of the Drone Technology Park will be based on the use of PANSA’s new Air Traffic Control Centre in Poznań, which will allow for a unique combination of available facilities and infrastructure, as well as human resources in a single facility.

A low-altitude Airspace Management Coordination Centre will also be located at the back-up Air Traffic Management Centre in Poznań for the implementation of tasks related to public safety and health protection.

Within 5 years, the KPO funding will create an intelligent UAV monitoring and command and control centre for law enforcement, based on a multi-layered low-altitude airspace management model for distributed UAV traffic management for public safety and health care providers – informs Minister Horała.

The system solution developed within the project (ICT part) (high computing power and advanced algorithms for routing and collision avoidance, as well as crossing horizontal zones) is to enable large-scale automatic flights and autonomous flights of public services in the city. The key element will be to identify the needs of individual institutions and services and to develop the necessary additional functionalities while maintaining the coherence of the concept of UAV flight management in Poland, taking into account the PansaUTM flight coordination system implemented in Poland and the modules and services already developed under the EU Digital Poland programme.

The result will be an “intelligent” UAV monitoring, command and control centre for law enforcement based on a multi-layered low-altitude airspace management model for distributed UAV traffic management for public safety and health tasking entities. A route management and anti-collision tool with high computational and real-time command capabilities will also be developed. The project also envisages the piloting of autonomous and automatic systems for operations in combined urban operations and interoperability in one limited space of operations.

The digitisation of processes associated with the use of UAVs is expected to contribute to reducing the use of conventionally driven vehicles. It will significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful substances. Due to the foreseen participation in the project of the EIA and the Forest Service, the project will affect environmental protection through the use of new surveillance and management tools.

The project creates a potential counted in thousands of jobs for workers with new competences. Currently in Poland, as of 31 December 2020, more than 50,000 people have completed mandatory registration as a UAV pilot as required by EU regulations. By the end of 2020, more than 20000 issued UAV operator qualification certificates (issued by the Polish CAA) were recorded. There is still a demand for new, increasingly specialised qualifications. The development of UAV applications also means demand for innovative products and thus employment in the business sector – adds Minister Horała.

The timetable for the implementation of Component A assumes that by the end of 2022 a law in support of unmanned mobility will enter into force and a comprehensive UAV development programme will be adopted. Responsibility for implementation rests with two ministries: MRPiT and MI.

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The draft National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRP) is a programme document setting out the objectives for recovery and building socio-economic resilience in Poland following the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and the reforms and investments proposed for implementation. The document forms the basis for applying for support from the European Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The time horizon for the document closes at the end of August 2026.