February 15, 2021

Drone research project SUCOM receives BMVI funding

The German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is funding the research project SUCOM (Superior UTM Communication System) with the amount of around 1.15 million euros. The Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute (HHI) is the coordinating partner for the project. SUCOM’s objective is to develop and validate a secure, mobile radio-based communication system for drones. The project started in August 2020 and is scheduled to run until August 2022.The funding certificate was officially handed over by Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer on December 15, 2020.

Drones will play an increasingly important role, not only in the future of the logistics and mobility sectors, but also in a wide range of other applications. In this context, the use of drones that operate beyond the vision range of a person controlling them will increase. Conventional remote control systems are not suitable for such applications due to their range limitations. With simple mobile radio-based systems, there is also the risk of failures in the event of high mobile radio traffic or a lack of network coverage.

To meet the high safety requirements of aviation, every drone should have a highly reliable communication system for transmitting safety-critical information to ground control stations. Primarily, this is information required in connection with Unmanned Aircraft Traffic Management systems (UTM) for the creation of aerial situation images, such as position, flight altitude, flight direction, speed or the position data of other aviation participants. "The pilot needs to know where the drone is at all times. He must also be able to intervene in flight control at any time if necessary. To meet these requirements, we are developing a highly reliable communication system based on mobile communications," said Tom Piechotta, research associate at Fraunhofer HHI and joint coordinator of the project.

SUCOM is designed to meet these security requirements by combining several technologies into an integrated system with a high level of fail-safety. In addition to mobile radio data channels, it also utilizes the prioritization of voice channels in the network. This means reliable maintenance of communication even when the mobile network is at high capacity. The system also uses redundant mobile radio modules that communicate via different provider networks. Together with its project partners Wingcopter GmbH, Emqopter GmbH and CiS GmbH, Fraunhofer HHI intends to test the reliability of the communication system through a large number of test flights with more than 500 flight hours under real operating conditions. This will include testing various flight and dodging maneuvers from static or dynamic objects, which can optimize trajectories and prevent collisions.

Federal Minister of Transport Andreas Scheuer commented: "Drones improve people's lives in cities and rural areas - whether in traffic control or logistics, for medical transport, environmental protection and nature conservation, agriculture or, in the longer term, as air cabs. To ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from this in the future, we launched a call for funding for innovative drone projects. The response was enormous: Selected from more than 160 good proposals, we are now funding two further projects with around 2 million euros. Medifly 2 aims to facilitate medical care with rapid drone transports. SUCOM develops a communication system to safely control and monitor drone flights beyond visual range. Germany is a pioneer in this area, this is innovation Made in Germany. To further consolidate this leading role, we will launch a new funding program next year to support more innovative drone projects. 15 million euros will be available for this. I look forward to receiving many proposals and good ideas!"