Estonian state planning drone testing area in Tartu

A Police and Border Guard Board drone on Saaremaa
A Police and Border Guard Board drone on Saaremaa Source: Margus Muld/ERR

The Transport Administration (Transpordiamet) has commenced work on a project aimed at developing an automated flights testing zone in Tartu. This would be used for evaluating the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Maiken Kull, Vice-Rector for Development at the Estonian Aviation Academy (Eesti Lennuakadeemia), told ERR that: "Before introducing anynew tech and services, their safety and security must be ensured; these are the main keywords in aviation."

"In order for these various technical solutions to be able to work in concert and to comply with regulations, for instance, all of this can be put in place beforehand, via the test area," Kull continued.

Priit Rifk, project manager of the Transport Administration's UAV department added that the test area, likely to be in or near Tartu, could include fields and forest in its terrain, as well as human settlement.

This will be in line with requirements of the EU's aviation agency, the EASA, and its U-Space framework.

Rifk said: "U-space services are designed so that if, for instance, more than one UAV is present in an area, and also flies beyond the visual field, then for example, network identification , geo-awareness, mass flight permit and traffic information services are all vital."

"In the virtual airspace where this drone flies, these services should be utilized," Rifk added.

Maiken Kull used the example of package delivery – which need not entail one drone controller per package, but could see several drones centrally controlled by the one individual.

In any case, mapping the full potential of drones and other UAVs requires the right testing infrastrucutre, which in turn requires an adequate testing area, which in turn should also be in line with U-Space requirements.

The proposed UAV testing zone will be funded by the EU's Enterprise and Innovation Foundation, and a feasibility study involving private sector firm ANRA Technologies is already underway, also bearing in mind the need to avoid public disruption.

The results of this research should be ready by September, though demo flights may start in the summer, Priit Rifk said.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots

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