Project objectives

Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAV), also commonly referred to as drones, are air vehicles and associated equipment that do not carry a human operator, but instead fly autonomously or are remotely piloted. UAVs are increasingly being considered for commercial and government civilian applications ranging from firefighting to agriculture through the generation of climate data and border surveillance and more. They can perform air operations that manned aircrafts struggle with, and their use brings significant economic savings and environmental benefits whilst reducing the risk to human life. UAV-based service and product innovation, as driven by increased levels of connectivity and automation, is curtailed by the growing dependence on poorly interoperable proprietary technologies and the risks posed to people, to other vehicles and to property. This issue was identified to have high impact on European innovation by SESAR JU (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Joint Research Undertaking), which demands R&D investments and incentives for the convergence of shared technologies and markets as a remedy. Actions creating globally harmonized, commercially exploitable yet widely accessible R&D ecosystems should be publicly performed. The COMP4DRONES project complements SESAR JU efforts with particular focus on software and hardware architecture of UAV systems.

The main goal of the COMP4DRONES project is to provide a framework of key enabling technologies for safe and autonomous drones. It brings to bear a holistically designed ecosystem from application to electronic components, realized as a tightly integrated multi-vendor and compositional UAV embedded architecture solution and a tool chain complementing the compositional architecture principles.

The project will focus on the following specific objectives:

  1. Objective O1: Ease the integration and customization of embedded drone systems. COMP4DRONES aims at developing a generic, modular/compositional and scalable architecture to support efficient customization and incremental assurance of UAV embedded platforms.
  2. Objective O2: Enable drones to take safe autonomous decisions. COMP4DRONES will design and develop safe and reconfigurable UAV software components that support autonomous decision making
    concerning individual or cooperative missions.
  3. Objective O3: Ensure the deployment of trusted communications. COMP4DRONES will develop a robust and efficient UAV communication infrastructure that ensures trustworthy drone-to-drone and drone-to-ground communications even in presence of malicious attackers and under the  intrinsic platform constraints.
  4. Objective O4: Minimize the design and verification effort for complex drone applications. COMP4DRONES will set-up and nourish an ecosystem of agile-oriented tools to support and automate the cost-effective compositional design and assurance of UAV modules and systems.
  5. Objective O5: Ensure sustainable impact and creation of an industry-driven community. COMP4DRONES aims at building an open sustainable ecosystem around public, royalty-free and implementation-driven software platform standards that will ease the development of new UAV functionalities for multiple application domains.

Work to be performed and expected results

The project will work on five (5) pillars, which correspond to specific project scientific and technical objectives (STO):

Integrated Modular Architecture for Drones (related to O1)
COMP4DRONES will follow a modular architectural approach inspired from IMA (Integrated Modular Avionics). This architecture holds a shared set of flexible, reusable and interoperable hardware and software resources that, when integrated, meet a defined set of functional, safety and performance requirements. The project will foster the market introduction of platform module families for robust compositional design and incremental assurance. Compositionality will be guaranteed through well-specified interfaces, especially focusing on network and hardware connectivity and a modular system management infrastructure. The platform will be flexible enough to meet highly different non-functional requirements and hence target different application domains (e.g., navigation, mission control, planning, and obstacle avoidance).

Measurable Outcomes

  • A reference architecture of modular embedded drone platform, as a virtual entity that embodies a common set of APIs to access the hardware and network resources, flexible scheduling, reconfiguration and resource protection mechanisms.
  • A method for incremental assurance and predictability that facilitates the integration and customization of drone modules with minimum impact on other modules and the overall timing and safety determinism.
  • A repository of generic hardware-independent application components that will be easily parameterized and pluggable on embedded platforms  implementing the proposed reference architecture.

Success criteria

  • To demonstrate a potential gain for design efficiency of UAV embedded platforms by reducing their integration, customization and maintenance efforts.

Safe Intelligent Navigation (related to O2)
The COMP4DRONES project will develop an on-board high-performance computing architecture where flight-planning algorithms, such as embedded artificial intelligence algorithms, can run in a safe manner. It will also involve perception algorithms that process data from UAV’s surroundings, including other obstacles, telemetry, and environment conditions. Intelligent decision-making algorithms include obstacle avoidance, constraints-based planning such as geo-limitation (geo-fencing), and fault-tolerant missions. Indeed, UAV must have the capability to reconfigure itself and re-plan its trajectory or its mission in the event of failure. Autonomy requires high performance computing means without compromising safety, both at runtime by supervising the safe operation and at design time by providing efficient techniques to verify and validate a safe UAV behavior.

Measurable Outcomes

  • Intelligent navigation and trajectory planning algorithms supporting flight planning, geo-limitation, obstacle avoidance and advanced perception (including drone-to-drone and drone-to-infrastructure communications).
  • Intelligent decision-making algorithms supporting fault-tolerant missions and self-adaptation mechanisms.
  • Runtime safety monitoring algorithms to enable dynamic safe-operational modes and safe control transfer to human operators, whenever it is needed.

Success Criteria

  • To demonstrate a potential raise of technology innovation led by increasing autonomy of dull, dirty, dangerous and difficult tasks with an acceptable level of safety.

Trusted Communication (related to O3)
UAVs considered in COMP4DRONES will exhibit applicative Quality of Service (QoS) requirements that mandate the use of a trustworthy communication infrastructure offering QoS guarantees. For this reason, there is a need to assess the varying UAV communication environment and to develop a framework allowing it to take advantage optimally of concurrent available communication links. At the same time, cybersecurity requirements will require that the drone-to-drone and drone-to-infrastructure communication links be protected against cyberattacks. This protection will have to offer an excellent quality especially with respect to the integrity and availability security properties. For this reason, the conceived security framework will have to feature advanced attack prevention, detection and reaction techniques. Finally, an orthogonal challenge with respect to trustworthy (reliable and secure) communications consists in the fact that UAV-embedded trustworthiness enforcement modules (e.g. communication stack, intrusion detection system…) will have to accommodate the inherent UAV constraints, e.g. in terms of memory and computing power. These modules will have to operate properly on this challenging environment.

Measurable Outcomes

  • A lightweight communication framework supporting MIMO (multiple input multiple output) wireless communication and middleware.
  • Robust-multi-radio communications.
  • Mechanisms for secure communications, including reactive security (e.g. anomaly-based intrusion detection).

Success Criteria

  • To demonstrate a potential raise of technology trustworthy led by reduction of cybersecurity risks of drone-to-drone and drone-to-ground communications.

Design, Performance and Verification Tools (related to O4)
One of the COMP4DRONES objectives is to simplify the effort of UAV engineers and thus allowing the development of more advanced, more complex UAV projects at an affordable cost. In order to do so, we envisage to set-up a tool-chain package that will provide a unified model-based design environment, simulation environment, safety assessment and formal validation and verification tools. They will be oriented to the
management of the interfaces between different engineering roles (component supplier, system integrator, installation and deployment, operation), at different levels of functional abstraction (e.g. from navigation and control to mission decision making), and different levels of platform abstraction (computation, coordination,
configuration, communication, composition and transformation) in an efficient and systematic way.

Measurable Outcomes

  • Drone system modelling and code generation tools.
  • Drone system validation and verification tools.
  • Drone system analysis and optimization tools.

Success Criteria

  • To demonstrate a potential gain for design and assurance efficiency of UAV embedded platforms by reducing specification, verification & validation and implementation efforts.

Industry-driven Community (related to O5)
Ensuring the highest levels of productivity, reliability, service, and performance while covering the largest possible spectrum of COMP4DRONES stakeholder groups implies a high degree of openness. COM4DRONES will face this challenge by working on three key enabler concepts: harmonization, scalability and growth. Firstly, “harmonization” will be achieved by unifying the mechanisms (e.g., patterns for communication, resource sharing) and APIs of the components underlying the UAV embedded platform. Secondly, “scalability” will be pursued through customizable tool-chains and predictable modular integration. Finally, we will enable “growth” into a bigger ecosystem and market by supporting co-existence of both opensource and proprietary solutions, and by lowering entry barriers for new players through productizing the core functionality. Special attention to open-source (with so-called “industry-friendly” licenses) is needed to make the approach accessible and to spread it easily in the community and in the market.

Measurable Outcomes

  • Ecosystem of COMP4DRONES software components, tools, methods, supported by an infrastructure of repository, change manangement and ticketing system
  • Community for maintenance, evolution and industrialization of the ecosystem, supported by governance board, rules, policies and quality models.

Success Criteria

  • To demonstrate a potential sustainable impact in UAV industry by increasing the harmonization, scalability and market growth of UAV technologies.


Demonstration and validation activities are essential to ensure the quality and relevance of innovations. COMP4DRONES achievements will be benchmarked and demonstrated through the following domain specific use-cases:

  • UC1 – Transport (Leader: INDRA)
  • UC2 – Construction (Leader: ACCIONA)
  • UC3 – Logistics (Leader: TOTAL)
  • UC4 – Surveillances & Inspection (Leader: TNL)
  • UC5 – Agriculture (Leader: AIT)

Nevertheless, COMP4DRONES could be used for other related application domains that should use autonomous or remotely piloted vehicles.

Potential impact

The integration of the professional drones into the airspace, especially for operations beyond visual line of sight, may influence all classes of airspace and have a much greater impact on the airspace than leisure drones. This is expected to be especially true in the long term for delivery and public safety & security drones operating in urban environments. Professional drone operators will need to safely operate alongside manned aviation and delivery drones in dynamically changing environment.

With particular emphasis on software and hardware architecture of UAV systems, COMP4DRONES is in line with ECSEL JU R&D priorities and complements SESAR JU efforts in regards to the following drone’s awaited features: detect & avoid, datacom & spectrum, security & cyber resilience, human factory and training, and validation & demonstration.

The COMP4DRONES achievements will have the following impacts:

Reinforcing the ecosystems of drones industry by providing methodology and a reference software architecture framework that meets performance and safety requirements. This architecture will ensure:

  • On the one hand, interoperability of specifications and components between integrators and solution provider;
  • On the other hand, will enable incremental certification through separation of concerns and reuse of qualified components.

The realization and adoption of this architecture will be facilitated by the fact that it is based on recognized and used industry standards in the aeronautical (ARINC-653) and robotics (ROS) domains. The architectural reference framework will build on existing software component repositories (e.g. Paparazzi and Dronecode). Beyond the ecosystem formed by the COMP4DRONES consortium partners, in WP7 we will focus on expanding and promoting its use on a European and global scale.

Improving innovation capacity and the integration of new knowledge. A structuring aspect of COMP4DRONES is the adoption of a “safe by design” approach which covers the activities of (1) specification, (2) design, (3) implementation, and (4) validation & verification. This component-based and model-based approach has already proven itself in other application domains such as automotive and aerospace. Adapting this approach to the UAV industry will enable the design of innovative and competitive UAVs capable of performing more sophisticated missions while ensuring a high level of safety.

Enabling and easing delivery of new services using drones in Europe. The biggest security risk for drone use is not the drone itself, but the technology inside of it. The R&D challenges addressed by COMP4DRONES cover most of the concerns related to the design of safe embedded system for drones. Mastering the design of high quality drones will encourage their acceptance by society and should accelerate the realization of uses that seem today very far away, especially delivery and public safety & security drones operating in urban environments. Enable to produce drones of quality both in terms of functionality and safety, will increase the competitiveness of the European drone industry and allow it to increase its share of the global market.

ECS Strategic Research Agenda focus areas:

ECSEL Call 2018

Start date: 10/2019

Duration: 36 months

Project coordinator:

Rodrigo Castiñeira González



Number of partners: 49

Number of countries: 8

Total investment: M€ 29.7

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