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TRACE drone carries EGNOS beacon for identification

October 31, 2020  - By
Photo: lakshmiprasad S/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Photo: lakshmiprasad S/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The first drone of Europe’s U-space TRACE project took its maiden flight Sept. 23. It carried an EGNOS-enabled beacon that allows the identification of the aircraft while guaranteeing accurate, robust positioning.

The drone lifted off at the ATLAS experimental flight center in Jaén, Spain, an aerodrome equipped for flight tests with unmanned aircraft systems.

The Regional Minister for Economic Transformation, Industry, Knowledge and Universities, Rogelio Velasco said, “This event shows Andalusia’s commitment to hosting initiatives that promote innovation in the region.”

TRACE project logoUsing enhanced EGNOS signals, the EU’s regional satellite-based augmentation system, TRACE supports the safe and effective integration of drones into U-space by providing essential services such as e-registration, e-identification and pre-tactical geofencing.

The smart beacon allows for remote identification of drones flying at a very low altitude, enabling safer integration of drones into airspace through the use of U-Space. This makes it easier for traditional aviation pilots to know the position of drones. The smart beacon also enables better traffic separation when integrated with U-space services, thanks to EGNOS.

“TRACE is a pioneering project in Europe that will allow us to demonstrate the advantages of EGNOS, particularly in terms of greater precision in locating drones,” said Luis Gómez, CEO of Alter Technology.

The TRACE project is funded by a GSA EGNOS Adoption in Aviation grant. It designed and developed a smart beacon that leverages the robust signal corrections of EGNOS to improve positioning accuracy, and thus the safety of drone operations at very low altitudes.

Carolina Jiménez, TRACE project manager at Alter Technology added, “TRACE will demonstrate compliance with the European Drone Regulation, an important aspect within the Alter business line, since one of the fundamental requirements in this new regulatory framework is that each system has the capacity for remote identification for future secure integration within the air space for these systems (U-Space).


The TRACE project is led by Alter Technology, and is a result of collaboration among European companies such as Unifly (Belgium), Pildo Labs and FADA-CATEC (Spain).

Vodafone, together with CATEC, presented the 5G Lab of ATLAS within the 5G initiative of RED.ES. A use case of 5G with drones for urgent defibrillator delivery was demonstrated with the participation of Fundación SSG, Vodafone and the technological support of CATEC.

TRACE project partners include:

  • Alter Technology provides engineering and test services for electronic systems and E.E.E. components within the space and harsh environment markets.
  • FADA-CATEC, the Advanced Aerospace Technologies Center, promotes and develops creation of technological knowledge and its transfer to the productive aerospace industry.
  • Pildo Labs is an engineering company that specializes in aeronautics and aerospace technology and services.
  • Unifly is a software company with a platform for the safe integration of drones into the airspace.
  • The European GNSS Agency (GSA) manages operations, security and service provisions for Europe’s Galileo and EGNOS.

The drone market is expected to outstrip any other user base in the aviation market. According to estimations, revenues from drone-based services are expected to exceed 150 million euros by 2023. GNSS is a key enabling technology for drones and it is expected that its role will continue to grow. Solutions like TRACE that use European GNSS (EGNOS and Galileo) are differentiators that can be leveraged to safely integrate drones into non-segregated airspace and into the U-Space.


The progressive deployment of U-space is linked to the increasing availability of services and enabling technologies. Over time, U-space services will evolve as the level of automation of the drone increases, and advanced forms of interaction with the environment are enabled (including manned and unmanned aircraft).

These U-space services have been identified and gathered in four different phases, increasing the drone level of integration. Learn more in the U-space Blueprint.

Image: GSA

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.