Deutsche Funkturm and Droniq announce partnership and apply for Germany’s first LUC certificate

Münster/Frankfurt, April 29, 2021: Since the beginning of this year, commercial drone operators have been able to apply for a permanent operating license for predefined drone missions: the LUC (light UAS operator certificate). The concept, which was introduced in the framework of EU drone regulations, is now being implemented in Germany for the first time: DFMG Deutsche Funkturm GmbH and Droniq GmbH have announced a partnership and will apply for an LUC to overfly and maintain broadcasting towers with drones. The launch of the partnership was marked by the overflying of the Colonius Broadcasting Tower yesterday and today in Cologne.

The LUC will reduce the effort required to apply for commercial drone usage. It enables companies to obtain a quasi-permanent license for predefined drone missions. The former process, under which every single flight had to be expensively applied for, reviewed, and approved, is no longer in effect, giving companies more flexibility and speed in their use of drones. “The issuing of the first LUC will give a further boost to commercial drone use in Germany,” predicts Droniq CEO Jan-Eric Putze. Droniq’s responsibility is to ensure the safe, fair integration of drones in German airspace.

The joint venture between German air traffic controller DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung and Deutsche Telekom is handling the full application process for the LUC within the framework of the partnership. It also conducts training courses and develops risk analyses for drone flights. Droniq safeguards flights by providing a combined air situation picture that represents both piloted and pilotless aircraft, based on the first fully operative traffic management system for drones in Germany distributed by Droniq (UTM).

Digitalization of maintenance and planning of radio sites
“By overflying the Colonius, we get detailed images and data about the building structure in areas of the tower that would otherwise be very costly to inspect. The LUC will also help us to drive the digitalization of our site management faster,” says Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CEO of DFMG Deutsche Funkturm GmbH. The company has been using drones for the inspection and planning of mobile base stations since 2019.

Deutsche Funkturm operates more than 32,500 radio and broadcasting sites in Germany, including most of the large broadcasting towers like the Colonius. With numerous antennas for different services – including broadcast radio and television, mobile communications, directional radio, and radio channels for authorities – it is one of the region’s most important and most complex broadcasting sites. The structure, which is nearly 40 years old and 266 meters tall, is exposed to extreme weather conditions and is therefore maintained intensively. In the future, Deutsche Funkturm will increasingly use modern drones for such tasks. Deutsche Funkturm already has its own nationwide network of trained pilots with modern drone hardware and will continue to expand it with support from Droniq.

Application by the end of the year
The certification process for LUC takes several months and involves providing written explanations of all central elements involved in the planned drone missions. This includes the type of mission, for example. Other necessary information involves the execution of quality controls, the risk management structure, and descriptions of the drones used.

DFMG and Droniq currently plan to submit the application for the LUC to the LBA, Germany’s equivalent to the FAA, during the fourth quarter. In view of DFMG’s digitalization strategy, the Fleetplan software solution, supplied by the company of the same name, will be used. It enables the digitalization of the entire required workflow – from producing the documents and their approval by an authority to their publication within the company.