Innovation and diversification in aviation

Operation of unmanned aircraft in Iceland

The Icelandic Transport Authority receives an increasing number of inquiries regarding the operation of unmanned aircraft. Isavia ANS, the Icelandic Air Navigation Provider (here after ANS), has taken an active role in supporting projects with unmanned aircraft within the Icelandic Flight Information Region (BIRD FIR).

An interesting example of this is a trial project on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) by the Icelandic Coast Guard (ICG), European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and ANS. The purpose of the mission was to perform ICG duties inside the Icelandic Exclusive Economic Zone. The drone was based at Egilsstadir (BIEG) airport in the eastern part of Iceland during the summer of 2019. The drone, Hermes 900 from ELBIT, similar in proportions to a small airplane, has a flight endurance of 24 hours. ANS established areas for exclusive use by the drone while performing duties related to Icelandic sovereignty around Iceland. The ICG was able to use the drone instead of flying its own fixed wing aircraft or helicopters or sailing its vessels to locate oceanic pollution, monitor fishing vessels and other assignments. The project was a success and proved that savings in cost and CO2 emissions are possible.

Another exciting project, a cooperation between ANS, the Norwegian Special Mission (NSM) and a Czech company Primoco UAV SE, was conducted in the summer of 2021 using an RPAS working within a defined area around BIEG from the 23rd to the 25th of August. The purpose of this project was to collect data to support the use of drones instead of airplanes, for flight testing of air navigation facilities and instrument flight procedures at airports. For comparison the drone, a Primoco One 150 model RPAS, flew the same routes as were previously flown by the ANS test aircraft. This is a project that will support changes in flight inspections for the future with savings in cost and CO2 emissions.

Given the success of the previous projects, the ICG and EMSA conducted a similar mission for the summer of 2022 where an ICG vessel had a drone on board while performing its duties. The drone, CAMCOPTER® S-100 from Schiebel, was based on the vessel, performing the same task as in the 2019 project. Considerable savings in cost and CO2 emissions was also a result of this project.