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Empowering organisations to perform digital UAS testing from around the world

Jordi Salvador Bernadí is the CTO and Business Development lead at Barcelona Drone Center, which is one of the first drone centres in the world where organisations can test their technology. We had the opportunity to interview him during Amsterdam Drone Week to speak about what his organisation does along with the course we’re co-hosting with them in Barcelona from the 26th - 30th of June, 2023, that covers UAS regulatory and SORA frameworks

The location is in Barcelona in an area called Moià, which is a bit more than an hour from Barcelona city centre by car. The benefit of having the drone centre located here is that the remote location allows for safer operations and, thus, faster regulatory approvals. Jordi told us that they primarily offer testing through evaluation and certification processes, but they are also involved in commercial events and supporting people with trainings and technical workshops.

The development and deployment of new sandboxes

Recently, the team has started to work on deploying several different sandboxes that are interesting for both manufacturers and operators. One is directly related to 4G and 5G communication, which speaks to a large market segment currently looking to enter the drone industry. Jordi also explained that they have beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) approval, which makes testing autonomous flights through telecommunications connectivity relatively easy. 

In addition to these tests, they’ve also been able to switch between a radio link and a 4G communication link on the site, which proves the technological capability of a drone to switch between transmissions if needed. Some companies have even tried out satellite communications, bringing an entirely new aspect to the field. 

The team at Barcelona Drone Center is also capable of performing these tests themselves, which only requires an organisation to be at the centre during the initial set-up of the drone. That allows additional testing if needed, and the data and findings can be sent to the organisation afterwards without needing to travel to Barcelona again. 

Digitalisation like this plays a significant role in the future of testing, which is essential for developing new technologies and understanding their functionality within regulatory frameworks. Implementing these types of digital testing also allows for scalability as there are only a limited number of drone centres in the world where this type of testing can be done, and digitisation can allow for these tests to happen simultaneously with data being sent around the world.

One-week intensive course on drone regulations in Barcelona

Our one-week intensive course on UAS regulations and the SORA methodology was created in collaboration with Jordi's team. The course aims to educate participants on regulatory aspects and offer hands-on experience at the test centre. It covers both the European and American regulatory frameworks, U-space, certification, and SORA 2.0 and SORA 2.5. The course will provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter through theoretical and practical chapters.

For the practical part, participants can experience theory hands-on with demonstrations such as geofencing, remote ID and emergency procedures. Because the course is held at the drone centre, it means the course takes advantage of the proximity of training facilities and the test site, making it easy for participants to transition between the two.

In addition to the educational aspects, the course offers opportunities for networking and leisure activities in the afternoons. These activities include vineyard visits, cave exploration and sightseeing in the area (of course, these are optional activities). 

While this is the first time the event has taken place, we know that it’s an invaluable experience for participants, who can expect to learn everything about modern drone regulations throughout the week.

Current trends in the drone industry

When we asked Jordi to end the interview by telling us some of the trends he’s personally seen, he mentioned the continued importance of BVLOS operations with autonomous systems. The demand for testing these systems at test centres is high due to the challenges of proper deployment, and overcoming these obstacles is critical for enabling a wide range of delivery applications and expanding the capabilities of drone technology.

The shift towards remotely piloted BVLOS UAS that are as autonomous as possible marks a notable development in the industry. Innovative concepts such as "drone-in-a-box" and networks of drones deployed across various locations to perform different tasks are quickly becoming prevalent as the market demand increases. These systems may also feature flexible payloads, adding versatility to their applications.

In addition to the advancements in BVLOS operations and autonomous systems, the drone industry is likely to see continued growth in other areas, such as regulatory frameworks, safety measures and technology integration.

About Jordi Salvador Bernadí

Jordi Salvador Bernadí has been working in Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) research and development since 2008. He is currently the CTO and Business Development lead at BCN Drone Center, where he is responsible for defining the company's technical vision and roadmap, systems engineering and conceptual design, business development, team management and representing the company's technology and services to customers and stakeholders.

Prior to his current role, he held various positions in the drone industry, including C UAS Test Site Development Consultant, CTO of CATUAV, and research and development UAV Project Manager. Jordi has also worked as a freelance research and development engineer, focusing on aerospace and robotics consulting, UAVs, computer vision and remote sensing.

Jordi has participated in an Industrial PhD programme at the Computer Vision Centre in Barcelona, where he conducted research on multispectral image fusion using UAV imagery. He is always eager to share his experience with UAS stakeholders and help them deploy new UAS solutions that can help improve society.

About Barcelona Drone Center

Barcelona Drone Center is a European civilian drone facility located in Moià, an hour away from Barcelona Airport and downtown Barcelona. The centre is situated in a self-sustaining building, utilizing solar and wind energy, with segregated airspace and a runway. It offers a variety of services, including consultancy, certification processes, and training courses in different fields.

The history of the center dates back to 1978 when its founder, Jordi Santacana, discovered his passion for aviation. Over the years, Santacana's experiences in building and operating drones led to the establishment of CATUAV, the first European civilian drone company. In 2014, the company purchased another property and established the Barcelona Drone Center. Today, the centre provides a wide range of services, from feasibility and viability studies to training, testing, evaluation and certification.

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