About the Project

Drone Zone Austria represents a scientific exploratory approach to develop a Web Portal in order to provide relevant high resolution spatial information for supporting legally compliant drone mission planning in Austria. Based on current legislation in Austria the important constraints to consider for safe drone mission planning are (I) the area of operation (i.e. settlement density), (II) key aeronautical information (e.g. aerodromes, control zones, flight restriction zones, etc.) and (III) presence of environmental protected areas (e.g. National parks, Natura 2000 areas, etc.). Drone Zone Austria is a project that for the first time provides a nationwide holistic integration and a compiled map-based high resolution view of the local distribution of these mission planning critical spatial data sources to support safe drone mission planning and operation.

Drone Zone Austria must be seen as a support tool for drone mission planning based on virtual information. Under no circumstances can the information provided here replace a real world mission site evaluation!

Drone Zone Austria is a scientific research project, therefore we accept no liability for and make no guarantee as to the correctness and/or completeness of the data and information available through the portal – please refer to the Disclaimer in English or in German for further details.

Acknowledgements

The exploratory project Drone Zone Austria has received funding from the Austrian research funding program "Take Off". "Take Off" is a Research, Technology and Innovation Funding Program of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT). The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) has been authorized for the Program Management.

In 2020, Drone Zone Austria was selected as one of six eAward 2020 nominees in the category "Smart City and Infrastructure".

DETAILS

Data Sources and Data Quality

Data sources like Google Maps, Google Earth or Bing Maps are most commonly used as a source of information for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) mission planning, but they have no legal reliability and do not guarantee actuality. At the same time, RPAS mission planning is a spatial task that needs high quality, accurate and up-to-date situational awareness information about the area of interest for safe planning and operation. Therefore the key foundation of this web portal is a geospatial Drone Zone Model derived from available up-to-date high quality trusted national geodata sources, which are provided by the Austrian public administration and the Austrian Aviation Control as a result of the Open Government Data Initiative and the European INSPIRE Geodata Infrastructure directive.

Area of operation

Since November 2018, three areas of operation for UAS are defined in Austria depending on the building density: (I) uninhabited, (II) populated and (III) densely populated. These areas of operation are described in a narrative form, but no spatial map based delineation is provided. Any high-resolution and professional drone mission planning has the major goal to derive GPS waypoints used for navigation. Here the boundaries of the operational zones are of special interest, because drone platforms are certified for specific operational areas as stated in legal issued individual drone operation approvals. Violation of such an approval may result in fines up to 22,000€. Therefore there exists a strong need for a science-based extraction and map representation of these three operational zones.
For the first time we provide a a proposal for a nationwide map representation of important areas of operation with a major focus on populated areas (category II) and densely populated areas (category III) for Austria. The classification and differentiation in populated and densely populated areas (i.e.”spatially closed urbanization zones comparable to the inner city of a typical market town or district capital”) is based on an empirical assessment of the mean address and building point density. We use here a threshold of 9 buildings per hectare. A “building” and an "address" in the context of this project are defined as point geometries provided by the Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying (BEV) as a nationwide Open Government Data set. Building and address point data are represented in the map in aggregated form as 100m x 100m regional statistical units as defined by Statistik Austria. Additionally, we provide a different cartographic representation of settlement density showing the building and address density distribution as a so called “Heatmap”.

Nature Protection Areas

In many nature protection areas in Austria (e.g. National Parks, Nature Parks, Natura 2000 areas etc.) the use of drones is restricted or prohibited. Such restrictions are defined in Austria very often at the federal state level. Therefore for any drone operation in such a protected area an additional operational approval is necessary, so a consultation with the local and regional authorities is highly recommended!

Drone-related Aviation Regulations & Aeronautical Information

Any responsible drone operation in the national airspace must consider and follow rules and restrictions defined by national legal aviation regulations. These are defined in detail for certified drones in an operational approval issued by the national aviation authority Austro Control. The key issue here are safety requirements and safety considerations in order to prevent fatal interaction and endangerment of other professional and recreational airspace users like commercial and private airplanes, rescue helicopters, gliders and paragliders. Special attention must be given to regulations in the vicinity of controlled and uncontrolled airports as well as to military training areas. All official aeronautical information presented in the Drone Zone Austria Web Portal are provided via GI web services by the National Aviation Authority Austro Control as part of their contribution to the European Spatial Data Infrastructure INSPIRE .

Spatial Context Map Data

Reliable and up-to date accurate spatial background data like high quality aerial images, building footprints or road networks provide a valuable context information and important support for drone mission planning. Drone Zone Austria is utilizing the Austrian basemap.at which is a high-performance web basemap published under an Open Government Data (OGD) license. It is based upon data provided by the nine Austrian federal states and their partners.

Further development

Further development of the web portal is carried out within the framework of an FFG financed project Drone Risk Austria. This project aims at creation of a supplemental service that will facilitate drone mission risk assessment with respect to the newest EU legislation. It is planned to get the service running by the end of 2020.