Advanced Aeronautics: a special drone takes off from Rocca delle Caminate

A flight with a special drone was carried out from the panoramic balcony of Rocca delle Caminate – home of the Forlì-Cesena Technopole – to the airport of Forlì. It was a journey of about 11 kilometres for which, during that flight of about 20 minutes, it was necessary to close the airspace in that area, as well as the transit on 4 roads overflown by the drone. The test was carried out a few weeks ago by a joint team of the University of Bologna (degree course in aerospace engineering), Enav and Zephyr Aerospace, to develop a regulation of remote piloted aircraft, the so-called drones.

Currently, for both technological and regulatory reasons, the flight of drones must be “on sight” of the pilot on the ground for normal civil use. The air traffic control authority (ENAV) does not want to be left unprepared for a situation in which drones – for which clearer rules are increasingly needed – can move away to such an extent that they disappear from the pilot’s view and even enter the range of action of a second pilot who takes command of them. That is precisely why this project has developed, since the city of Forlì is one of the main references for experimentation in the aeronautical field.

The experiment is explained by Emanuele Luigi de Angelis, a researcher at the School of Engineering and Architecture, Forlì, as part of the degree course in Aerospace Engineering: “We have recently been involved, as a research group, in some experiments on remote piloted aircraft in which the University of Bologna, ENAV, the airport authorities of the Ridolfi control tower and the local police have been involved, together with the young university spin-off Zephyr Aerospace, currently the first ‘inhabitant’ of the Technopole of Rocca delle Caminate”.

Here are those involved in the project: Fabrizio Giulietti (contact person), Gianluca Rossetti (researcher, who worked full time on the project) and Emanuele Luigi de Angelis (researcher) from the Interdepartmental Centre for Industrial Aeronautical Research (CIRI Aero), which includes the Flight Mechanics Laboratory; Cristiano Baldoni (contact person), Plinio Adriano Frasca and Luigi Brucculeri from ENAV; Matteo Turci from Zephyr. De Angelis has explained: “It was a unique experiment in the world that will be useful to the authorities to write, among the first in Europe, a clear and comprehensive regulation on the world of drones, even on large scale. Today drones are limited to ‘on sight’ use by the pilot, with strong limitations on the professional and scientific potential involved. Our experimentation has seen an automatic flight from the terrace of Rocca delle Caminate to Forlì Airport, for a total of 11 km (BVLOS mode, Beyond Visual Line of Sight). The experiment has been very successful and represents an interesting pioneering story for the territory”.

The flight went very well: departing from the terrace of Rocca delle Caminate, the special drone flew over an area on which there were 4 roads, closed for about twenty minutes by the local police for safety reasons. In addition, the entire stretch crossed bby the drone was banned from flying, including the flight school operating at Ridolfi. The aircraft, with a remote control system based on a cellular telephone network, was “taken over” by another pilot on the ground who was at the point of arrival, at the airport of Forlì. “It’s a first step, to try new flights in the future for even greater distances”, explains De Angelis. The purpose of the experiment is first of all to track the flight, identify the drone, as a sort of “ID plate”, and be able to locate the pilot on the ground. All of these requirements, of course, are fundamental to lay the foundations for future safety regulations for such aircraft. This is an advanced point of study that finds in Forlì the presence of scientific and professional skills needed to carry out these experiments.

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ottobre, 2022

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