The main responsibility of AIRlabs is to provide the professional Austrian drone community (industry, start-ups, research, institutional users) with the necessary infrastructure for their developments, projects and subsequent tests.
This includes, in particular, suitable airspaces that are specifically closed for AIRlabs or its users (restricted airspaces), and for which suitable take-off/landing sites on the ground and additionally required infrastructures are also provided.
In addition, AIRlabs supports users with consultancy and know-how, for example in planning test flights or submitting applications to the relevant authorities (e.g. SORA expertise).
As early as 2017, the Ministry of Transport and Innovation conducted the UAST study, which revealed that the professional Austrian drone community (industry, start-ups, research, institutional users) has a strong need for easily accessible test facilities for innovative drone developments in Austria.
For this reason, in 2018 the Ministry, together with the FFG funding agency, invited tenders for the Innovation Lab funding model for such test facilities, and in 2019 the broad AIRlabs Austria consortium – consisting of numerous companies, research institutions and key users – was awarded the contract to set up diverse and sufficient drone testing infrastructures in Austria from 2020.
The most important partners of AIRlabs are on the one hand the funding bodies (Federal Minsitry for Innovation and Mobility, Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG, Province of Styria) as well as the main authority partners in the field of aviation (Federal Minsitry for Innovation and Mobility, Austro Control). In addition, AIRlabs works with a broad network of partners from the Austrian drone community, the complete list of our partners can be found HERE on the AIRlabs website.
AIRlabs significantly supports the Austrian economy and research in the field of sustainable, future-oriented drone innovations, especially through simplified and low-threshold access to the required infrastructure for developments and tests.
- Knowledge gain
As these are novel technologies and applications, there are countless exciting questions to be answered. These include the validation/verification of technical, operational and safety procedures as well as the feasibility of technical-operational thresholds and limits, equipment requirements, legal requirements and adaptations, (further) development and optimisation of sensors, UAS components and test infrastructures, and much more.
- Social acceptance
By working transparently and informing the public at regular intervals, the acceptance of innovative applications and technologies in the field of UAS will be strengthened, and thus the understanding of the population for the future diverse application possibilities of drones will be sharpened.
- Creation and preservation of jobs
The innovative findings generated within the framework of the AIRlabs project will create possible incentives for the creation of future jobs in Austria and international perspectives on the UAS market.
The safety of aviation is increased by AIRlabs Austria, as many safety-promoting drone tests are now possible in secure environments, which were not possible at all or not so easily before.
- Innovation driver
Together with the Austrian drone community, AIRlabs Austria identifies and promotes a wide variety of innovations in the field of unmanned aerial systems and thus also serves as an innovation catalyst for the domestic research location.
Within the context of AIRlabs project management, a safety-related operations manual ( Standard: EN 9100) is used, in which the data protection-compliant mode of operation is defined in detail.
Generally, AIRlabs does not collect any personal data in the course of project implementation, unless this is necessary in the interest of the project partners or for the innovative character of the project.
However, if personal data is generated by uninvolved third parties, it will be processed in compliance with the relevant legal provisions and on the basis of the procedural instructions defined in the operations manual.
In order to keep possible disturbances to a minimum, sound level measurements, cast shadow calculations, stakeholder processes, information events, transparent public relations, publication of research results and the implementation of sustainable environmental concepts are part of AIRlabs Austria’s standard repertoire.
No. AIRlabs Austria is funded within the framework of the aeronautical research funding programme TAKE OFF, which is a purely civilian funding programme of the Federal Minsitry for Innovation and Mobility at Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG. Therefore, military research would not be permitted at all, for which there are other funding programmes in the aviation sector (KIRAS, FORTE).
The infrastructure available within the framework of AIRlabs is in principle available to all on a non-discriminatory basis. As a primarily non-commercial laboratory, our focus is on projects with inherent scientific benefits; however, AIRlabs can also work on commercial projects and contracts.
All questions related to drones and their applications can be addressed in test operations, in particular tests on range, performance, testing of sensor technology under various operating conditions, etc. The AIRlabs Austria consortium has a wide range of drone types available for testing purposes. These include fixed-wing aircraft in various versions, quad and multicopters as well as a variably equipped e-VTOL. The restricted airspaces accessible within the framework of AIRlabs Austria are generally open to all types of aerial devices.
The infrastructures offered include basic infrastructures for primary and applied research, such as various laboratories, sensors and services (measurements, analyses), special basic infrastructures for validation and integration, such as BVLOS technologies, as well as optional add-on mission infrastructures and competencies, such as permit support. Furthermore, various UAS such as multicopters, fixed-wing aircraft or VTOLs can be used. Restricted airspaces are available in Styria and Upper Austria in different sizes and with different characteristics in relation to the terrain (relief, vegetation, altitude). Separate flight/landing areas with weather stations are also available in Styria and Tyrol.
For cooperation partners and on request, we also provide a detailed infrastructure catalogue.
The restricted airspaces represent some of the environmental conditions that can usually be expected in Austria. In particular, it should be possible to meet the challenges of UAS operations in mountainous terrain with vegetation (in particular forest cover) and different altitudes. Furthermore, when selecting the areas, it was important to ensure that operation is as undisturbed as possible and that possible stakeholder interests, both on the ground and in the air, can be addressed in advance.
The exact details of the restricted airspaces can be viewed on the AUSTRO CONTROL GmbH website. To access information on the respective areas, only the name of the respective area is required. Simply follow this LINK.
Restricted or ‘prohibited area’ means an airspace of defined dimensions, above the land areas or territorial waters of a State, within which the flight of aircraft is prohibited (According to Standardised European Rules of the Air SERA). These can be activated within the context of AIRlabs’ activities on a temporary basis only, in order to ensure the safety of aviation through visualisation as well as the efficient use of airspace.
Yes. Unless test operations can be implemented in the Open category, a separate risk assessment (SORA) is required for each individual mission. Core elements of a SORA are a detailed analysis of ground and air risks. In this context, the air risk can be significantly minimised by a restricted airspace.
The so-called contingency area is a plan view of the so-called contingency volume, i.e. the space surrounding the actual and planned flight area. When entering this area, certain procedures are foreseen, such as avoiding collisions with other airspace users, dealing with bystanders in the vicinity of the contingency area, etc.
In the event of unforeseen incidents that may occur in the course of a Specific-Operation, mandatory procedures that have been defined in advance in a SORA come into effect. In addition, there is an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) for such cases, in which emergency measures and responsible personnel are specified.
The aim is to increase the experience and knowledge gained from test operations in a wide range of weather conditions and at all times of the year.
Here’s a handy ABC of the common terminology used in the context of drones:
UAS/UAV = Unmanned Aerial System/Vehicle
UAM = Urban Air Mobility
UTM = Unmanned Traffic Management
SORA = Specific Operations Risk Assessment
BVLOS = Beyond Visual Line Of Sight
U-Space = A geographically defined UAS-area (A controlled airspace)
NOTAM = Notice to Airmen
ERP = Emergency Response Plan
For other frequently used terms, please refer to the EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) information pages:
At the moment, there is no clear legal situation in Austria regarding the overflight of private property by drone. AIRlabs therefore goes the extra mile and proactively involves relevant stakeholders in mission planning.
If you have any further questions or suggestions, or would like to contact AIRlabs regarding a project idea, we will be happy to respond via chat on our website, on LinkedIn or by email. You can find more contact details HERE.