Autonomous passenger aircraft currently have no clear path to certification
A3 by Airbus, in association with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), has called on aviation and aerospace industry leaders, regulators, as well as technologists to cooperate in developing standards for self-piloted passenger aircraft and the regulatory pathways required to make large-scale automated passenger flight possible in urban areas.
A3 and AUVSI have already held a workshop at the Airbus Experience Centre in Washington, DC, that included key participants from the Federal Aviation Administration, industry groups and aviation companies, in order to focus on developing solutions in two key regulatory areas: certification; and air traffic management.
“Industry and regulatory leaders alike recognise the complexity of integrating automated passenger aircraft into urban airspace,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “And just as importantly, they recognise the need to fully partner in developing the standards and rules needed to ensure successful development of this class of aircraft, as well as safe and efficient operations.”
Airbus said it is harnessing its expertise, technology breakthroughs and innovative business models to actively develop a number of urban air mobility concepts that will contribute to relieving urban congestion. Current projects include Vahana, CityAirbus, Voom, and Skyways.
A3 announced, last year, that it is developing Vahana, a self-piloted flying vehicle platform for individual passenger and cargo transport. The organisation believes that the target market for such vehicles includes transport service providers, based on a system that could operate similarly to ride-hailing services, with the use of a mobile app to book a flight. Flight tests of the full-scale vehicle prototype are slated for the end of this year.
A3 is also working on Voom, an effort to make helicopter transport accessible and affordable to the broader travelling public, especially in markets where ground transportation is congested or unreliable. The project centres on a mobile web platform that connects the rider with licensed air taxi companies. Voom is currently conducting a beta programme in São Paulo, Brazil.
“The ability to be transported safely and quickly through a city in a self-piloted aircraft is no longer science fiction,” added Rodin Lyasoff, CEO of A3 by Airbus. “Advances in propulsion, battery performance, air traffic management, autonomy and connectivity mean that this mode of transportation is capable of benefiting millions of people in years, not decades.
“Urban air mobility will significantly change how we live and work for the better, but bridging from feasibility to reality will require close cooperation between the public and private sectors to define appropriate regulations.”
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