WATMC 2021: “You will be able to catch a flying taxi in Paris by 2024, accompanied by a pilot” says expert panel

By Jenny Beechener

Panellists agreed by 2024, unmanned aerial mobility will be a reality in “certain areas” based on trials commencing in multiple locations, according to a presentation at the World ATM Congress in Madrid.

Volocopter Head of Airspace and Vertiports, Jȍrn Jaeger, expects to secure type certification for its unmanned aircraft by the end of 2023, ahead of first operations in 2024. Volocopter is working with French air navigation service provider DSNA to demonstrate live flights starting in 2022. DSNA is establishing two urban testbeds: the Vilagil Ecosystem for Mobility at Francazal Airport close to Toulouse, and a second at Pointoise Airfield near Paris where commercial urban services are planned for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. These sandbox sites are in addition to the call for participation in nationwide development of Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) system launched earlier this year. “We need real, practical experience to enable us to progress,” Antoine Martin, DSNA ATM/U-space Services Director, told delegates attending the WAMTC Advance Aerial Mobility (AAM) panel in the Civil UAVs Initiative theatre.

DSNA is working towards full integration of manned and unmanned in three kinds of airspace: controlled airspace, non-controlled airspace alongside other users including military and recreational operators, and in urban areas. “Operating near an airport is especially challenging. For UTM and ATM to interact, you need dynamic vehicle identity, and you also need to find a way for digital systems to interact with each other.”

Dr Parimal Kopardekar, Director NASA Aeronautics Research Institute, predicts there will be flying taxis (piloted) in small segments in the US within the 2024-25 timeframe. This concurs with comments by Maria Algar, European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Drone Programme Manager, who said 2024-25 is possible, based on the continued development of standards and certification activities. “Flights without a pilot are unlikely before 2045.”

There are many building blocks still outstanding. “These relate to operational requirements, airspace integration, standardised rules of the air, pilot licensing, and the evolving certification requirements,” said Maria Algar. In parallel, EASA is also developing an AI roadmap, vertiport specification development, and electronic conspicuity in order to integrate with manned aviation.

(Image:  Antoine Martin, DSNA)

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