Cross-border, fully automated drone flight between Heerlen and Aachen

21/04/2023
Flight Path from Heerlen to Aachen Copyright: © FSD

First cross-border, fully automated drone flight between Heerlen in the Netherlands and Aachen according to the new EU regulations (2019/947 and 2019/945)

  Landing drone Copyright: © FSD Precision Landing at University Hospital Aachen

As part of the EULE project, an mFUND project funded by the BMDV, a fully automated flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) between the Zuyderland Hospital in Heerlen and the University Hospital in Aachen took place on Friday 21/04/2013. The tilt-wing aircraft TW-Neo covered the 14.5 km distance in 14 minutes and 8 seconds. In the future, the drone will be used to transport medical goods such as corneas as transplant goods or laboratory samples. The target is other hospitals, but also laboratories and pharmaceutical wholesalers in the Rhineland area and the Euregio Meuse-Rhine. The EULE project manager Ann-Kristin Sturm was particularly proud: "It's great that we were able to show that such a flight is so precisely feasible and that we can implement something like this on a regular basis in the future."

The flight not only demonstrated that transport is possible, but also that the integration of the flight system into the airspace works, which is a challenge especially from a legal point of view. Still in the SAFIR-med project, it was possible to obtain an operating permit for the TW-Neo in the Euregio area Heerlen - Aachen, which could now be used in the EULE project. The operating permit was applied for by the project partner flyXdrive GmbH and approved by the Luftfahrtbundesamt (LBA) for this special tilt-wing flight system. The flight system had to meet certain safety criteria in order to subsequently be allowed to fly in the flight area. A particular challenge in obtaining the approval was the cross-border air traffic, as it is necessary to cooperate with the authorities of the respective countries. On the German side, the LBA is responsible, on the Dutch side the Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport (ILenT). It was successfully demonstrated that cross-border flight is possible and can also be implemented. In the future, the Institute of Flight System Dynamics will continue to work on implementing trial operations between hospitals as part of the EULE project.