EU's Call for Proposals: Innovative applications of drones for ensuring safety in transport

Develop and test technologies, operational and business models for the application of drones or drone swarms and other emerging technologies to increase the safety, security, public acceptance and overall efficiency of air, waterborne and surface transport, both passenger and cargo, including search and rescue applications.
Application Deadline in 3 months

The drone market is the fastest growing in aerospace, generating high-skilled jobs and enabling innovative services, both in the public sector at large (safety, security, environment monitoring, …) and in the private sector (farming, infrastructure, delivery, inspection, broadcasting, leisure, …), not only by large companies but also by many SMEs including start-ups. More services with drones and other emerging technologies can underpin safety and security in different transport modes: waterborne, railways, road transport and air transport.

The EU can strengthen its internal market and bolster its global market share by boosting in a consistent manner the development and safe and secure use of drones for civil and commercial purposes in the EU, notably allowing them to fly in the Single European Sky[1], including over European waters (e.g sea route and harbours) or to sail in European waterways and coastal areas. The development of vertical spatial + transport planning tools/methodologies and the development of technologies that help authorities in charge (e.g. city police officers) to ensure the enforcement of rules and to prevent abuse of drones for unwanted purposes can help to safely integrate drones in concepts for the last mile delivery in cities or rural areas..

Drones can be considered in a broad sense i.e. Unmanned Aerial Systems, including autonomous and remotely piloted systems. On the one hand drones can be problematic for transport safety and security. This is addressed in SESAR2020 and by the IMO at MSC 98, with a view to ensure enforcement of regulations on drones as well as safe and secure integration into Air and Maritime Traffic Management. On the other hand, drones can be enablers of safety and security of current transport means, for instance by monitoring large vehicles/vessels/air vehicles, transport infrastructure and transport operations and users in nominal and also contingency conditions, such as search and rescue. Furthermore, delivery by drones can enhance mobility services in line with the U-space concept set by the EU in the Riga Declaration. In any cases, public acceptance, privacy issues and other legal aspects of the widespread use of drones are recognised as essential, especially in urban environments.


The proposals are expected to address both of the following research areas:

  • Develop and test technologies, operational and business models for the application of drones or drone swarms and other emerging technologies to increase the safety, security, public acceptance and overall efficiency of air, waterborne and surface transport, both passenger and cargo, including search and rescue applications.
  • Explore and develop innovative technologies and sustainable business models for pilot services, such as large vehicles/vessels/aircraft inspections, transport management (including emergencies), transport infrastructure condition monitoring and maintenance, logistics, on-demand cargo and/or personal mobility using drones and other emerging technologies safely.

Efficient, reliable and secure (taking into account cybersecurity) collection, distribution (including wireless transmission) and automatic processing of data (on ground and on board) should be included (e.g including through sensor integration) while respecting privacy rights/personal data protection requirements. Also requirements from law enforcement agencies and insurance should be considered.

Scaled demonstration of the services should underpin and accelerate the regulatory adaptation, certification, public acceptance, standards validation and follow-on deployment in Europe, including innovative commercial and public pre-procurement. Applications of drones should leverage synergies among EU satellite-based systems for navigation (EGNOS/Galileo), observation (Copernicus) and communication.

Proposals should also ensure consistency with the overall regulatory framework, in particular with EASA's work for systems certification and standardisation and complementarity with SESAR2020 Programme (including SESAR 2020 RPAS Exploratory Research Call from 28 June 2016) EMSA and Shift2Rail IP2 activities and with other EU co-funded drone related projects and initiatives, notably under Horizon 2020 Security challenge or EDA's SARUMS activities. Proposals may include the commitment from the European Aviation Safety Agency to assist or to participate in the action.

Proposals should ideally address TRLs ranging from 3 to 5.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU between EUR 3 and 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact:

  • Contribute to increase safety and security of the overall civil transport system.
  • Contribute to enhance safe and seamless mobility of cargo and passengers.
  • Contribute to economic growth by unleashing new markets, new industries and new high-added value jobs in Europe while ensuring appropriate legal frameworks and advancing safety systems certification and setting standards with potential to become a global reference.
  • Building knowledge and acceptance within society for the steps described within U-Space.

[1] The EU regulatory framework is being set following the "EU Aviation Strategy" [COM/2015/0598] and the new regulation on common rules in the field of civil aviation and on the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), proposed by the Commission in December 2015 [COM(2015)0613]. The framework entails the harmonisation of regulations and standards across the European Union along with comprehensive, cohesive and conclusive demonstration of the enabling technologies.

Source: The European Commission

Illustration Photo: Drone over York River (credits: D. Gong / VIMS / Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

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