The Future of Urban Air Mobility and Urban Airspace

The introduction of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will create a new, exciting market for Urban Air Mobility (UAM). Very soon, we will see eVTOLs providing air taxi services for passengers and cargo in metropolitan areas around the world. UAM is expected to become a mainstream mode of transportation in certain locations as operations scale and mature.

Several airspace and Air Traffic Management (ATM) challenges must be addressed to support the introduction and growth of UAM in a globally harmonised way. Urban aircraft operations will increase in tempo, density, and complexity, with more flights and shorter turnaround times. It will be necessary to solve the unique ATM issues associated with battery-powered, piloted, passenger-carrying operations. In addition, ground infrastructure will evolve to accommodate this new environment, with multiple vertiports operated by different organisations serving multiple fleet operators.

While initially piloted, a diverse range of eVTOL aircraft will enter service over the next 10 to 15 years. UAM’s increased use of airspace will coincide with the rise of other users like Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) in urban skies. We will eventually transition to both piloted and uncrewed electric aircraft, integrating with existing airspace users and drones. Ultimately, the urban airspace will comprise a mix of piloted, remotely piloted, and autonomous aircraft of varying sizes, propulsion systems and payloads.

In some locations, existing airspace management and ATM approaches will be insufficient to handle future urban airspace demands. A more advanced approach is needed to safely scale operations, agnostic to the aircraft type, and ensure fair and equitable airspace access. The evolution of ATM in the urban environment must support existing and new airspace users, including piloted and uncrewed aircraft operations. New ATM services will likely incorporate UAS Traffic Management (UTM) concepts, tailored for urban airspace and all airspace users.

The first eVTOL UAM operations will follow Visual Flight Rules, with Instrument Flight Rule operations anticipated soon after. While an eVTOL can operate within the existing airspace and ATM framework without significant changes, introducing UAM-specific ATM services early is highly beneficial. They can support the launch of eVTOL operations and help prepare for scale, so planning must commence now for these types of services. Therefore, Eve is working on these solutions with a wide range of industry stakeholders and partners.

The complexity of integrating new urban airspace operations with existing aircraft requires more advanced ATM services compared to other airspace segments. Therefore, a specific concept focused on urban airspace is a crucial priority for the industry.

The implementation of Urban ATM concepts must be harmonised globally. Aircraft Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and operators will likely develop and operate aircraft in many different countries. Like traditional ATM, common global approaches will be needed to enable technology integration and ensure investment in UAM can be made effectively. UAM Ecosystem stakeholders will need a shared vision of how ATM will evolve to support UAM in the short, medium and long term.

Eve believes an agnostic approach to managing traffic is needed for operations to scale safely. The company advocates for an agnostic Urban ATM concept supporting fair and equitable airspace access through participation in standards bodies and industry associations and discussions with aviation authorities.

Tomorrow, we will introduce our work on Urban ATM as an approach to address the integration of all airspace users in the urban environment.

For more information, visit us at the Atech stand F22. 

About the author

Rob Weaver is the Urban ATM Global Business Development Lead for Eve Air Mobility, the Embraer backed start-up dedicated to accelerating the global UAM ecosystem. He also leads Entry Into Service planning for Eve’s eVTOL aircraft in Australia.

Rob has worked with Embraer-X and Eve on new ATM concepts to support UAM since 2018. Previously he was Executive General Manager Safety, Environment & Assurance at Airservices Australia, where he was a member of the Executive for six years. He has also worked for the UK’s Air Navigation Service Provider and holds a PhD in safety critical systems from the University of York.

The need for unity in greener skies

Aviation is committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. A panel on innovation for greener skies at the CANSO Executive Summit 2024 agreed that collaboration is essential to achieve this aim, which is likely to be the biggest challenge that aviation will face in the next 26 years.

Pursuing greater efficiency will lead to improved sustainability. Moreover, it is the only viable way forward. Although traffic is predicted to almost double by 2050, no such increase is suggested for airports or air traffic management in terms of staff or other relevant parameters.

This means efficiency improvements, such as trajectory-based operations (TBO), will be vital. The question is how to implement procedural improvements when they rely on huge amounts of real time data. Other sustainability-related initiatives, including contrail avoidance, will only increase the challenge.

The hope is that artificial intelligence (AI) will make this possible. The potential of the technology was agreed by the panel although this has yet to translate to the physical world. Peter Kearney, CEO, AirNav Ireland likened this to a dog chasing a car that loves the chase but has no idea what to do if it catches the car.

Filip Cornelis, Director of Aviation, European Commission, also pointed out that digitalisation cannot just be digitising an analogue process which, he argued, changes nothing.

Marie Owens Thomsen, SVP Sustainability and Chief Economist, IATA, made an impassioned plea for transportation to be accessible for all because aviation is one of the greatest drivers of social and economic progress the world has ever known. But she stressed that only “unity in mission” could make this happen in a sustainable way. This unity involves not only airlines, airports and air navigation service providers but also governments and the customer.

The panel accepted that costs would go up but Kok Juan Han, Director General, CAAS, asked the critical question: “How much will people, organisations and governments pay to go green?”

He noted that Singapore has a 1 per cent surcharge, equating to about US$10. These “baby steps”, as he termed it, are essential as price elasticity – the amount people will pay before demand is affected – comes into play and that could change. Also, aviation would have to show that the finances were being properly used and carbon emissions were coming down. Monitoring, reporting, and most importantly, communicating the improvements would become mission critical.

The panel concluded with participants agreeing that being innovative and green equates to a good service to the customer. Ultimately, that will mean attracting more customers and generating more revenue. It will also mean avoiding the penalties that will doubtless be implemented for not pursuing carbon reduction strategies.

The Panel

  • Filip Cornelis, Director of Aviation, European Commission
  • Marie Owens Thomsen, SVP Sustainability and Chief Economist, IATA
  • Luis Felipe de Oliveira, Director General, ACI World
  • Michelle Bishop, Director Programmes, CANSO
  • Kok Juan Han, Director General, CAAS
  • Ramon Tarrech Masdeu, Director ATM Strategy and Innovation, Indra
  • Peter Kearney, CEO, AirNav Ireland

DataBeacon and uAvionix collaborate to deliver low-latency, cloud situational awareness with Romeo5 Flight Information Display solution

DataBeacon and uAvionix, announced today, the planned availability of uAvionix’s validated FlightLine ADS-B data from cooperative aircraft as a sensor feed for DataBeacon’s Romeo5 airport and Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) Flight Information Display solution. The data provides enhanced situational awareness to air traffic service providers by visualizing the traffic in the airspace they manage mimimising their infrastructure investments. Reliable, trusted and cost effective traffic feeds are a key enabler for airports and ANSP’s wishing to take advantage of new surveillance technologies.

David Perez, CEO of DataBeacon, says, “Safety is our top priority at DataBeacon but this is only achieved if we also balance the importance of cost-effectiveness for our customers. With the collaboration between DataBeacon and uAvionix, we are able to provide reliable and trusted traffic feeds that minimize infrastructure investments for air navigation service providers and airports, allowing them to take full advantage of new surveillance technologies. By leveraging the validated ADS-B data from uAvionix, our solutions offer a unique value proposition that sets our solution apart from traditional legacy technologies.”

The uAvionix FlightLine service provides validated ADS-B track data from a first-of-its-kind high integrity surveillance network of dual-band ADS-B receivers. FlightLine’s truSky™ validation score provides airports and ANSP’s confidence in the track data for airspace surveillance while the Romeo5 system displays system and connectivity status. The cloud-based system performs at low latencies with redundancy to ensure timely and reliable delivery of ADS-B data from cooperative aircraft. With traceability to certified avionics for ADS-B, the combined Romeo5 and FlightLine surveillance data-as-a-service is a trusted solution for airports and ANSP’s.

The innovative uAvionix truSky validation process inside FlightLine uses the network of multiple low-cost and low-profile deployed dual-frequency (1090MHz and 978MHz) ADS-B ground receivers to evaluate ADS-B signals transmitted from an aircraft. The system then instantly compares the received signals to confirm that the signal originated from the aircraft’s position. When enough sensors are available, truSky uses a number of methods to backwards calculate the aircraft’s position and compares it to the position contained within the ADS-B transmission. Using Doppler information, multilateral timing, and aircraft kinetics, the calculation produces a validation score on each aircraft to provide the confidence and safety margin required for trusted use by airports and ANSP’s operators.

Compliant with UK CAA CAP670 regulation, Romeo5 is a low-complexity Flight Information Display (FID) for aerodromes and airports in the UK. Romeo5 has been built upon the foundation of DataBeacon’s Romeo5 tower and airport solution. The on-premise system is easily deployed on a variety of computer operating systems and offers a cost-effective alternative to a traditional radar and surveillance data processing systems. Utilizing multiple data sources, including ADS-B, Romeo5 delivers a next-generation user-friendly interface providing increased visibility to AFISOs and ATCOs.

Customers wishing to take advantage of DataBeacon Romeo5 with FlightLine validated ADS-B Data should contact David Perez of DataBeacon for further information on the benefits of the combination and how to add FlightLine coverage to their airspace.

CANSO Executive Summit 2024 in pictures

The CANSO Executive Summit 2024 kicked off Airspace World in style at the Palexpo Centre yesterday (Tuesday 18 March). More than 450 leaders from across the ATM industry heard from a wide range of speakers and experts covering topics including the impact of Artificial Intelligence and sustainability.

You can see all the pictures here.

Don’t miss a thing on Take Off Tuesday

Airspace World starts the way it means to go on – offering rich content on every aspect of air traffic management operations. With some 170 exhibitors and five theatres, innovation and inspiration are never more than a few steps away.

Here are just a few suggestions to ensure you learn something new on Tuesday 19 March:

10:30-11:20 Wing Theatre

Traffic Management Services to Support AAM Entry into Service

Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is set to transform the industry. Whether it’s drones or air taxis, providing the requisite air navigation services will be key to AAM’s safe and seamless integration into civil airspace.

11:00-11:25 Boeing Theatre

Greening the Skies – How ATM can play its part

Sustainability is aviation’s license to grow, and the industry is committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Find out what air navigation service providers can do to help the industry continue reducing its carbon footprint.

13:00-13:50 Frequentis Theatre

Building an Aviation Strategic Plan on Service Excellence

A high-level panel representing all the major players in the aviation ecosystem will discuss exactly what needs to be done to ensure the end customer enjoys a smooth travel experience.

15:00-15:25pm Indra Theatre

ATM System Test Tool

HungaroControl explains why ATM system software testing is so important and the challenges that air navigation service providers, integrators and manufacturers face during testing. How can an automated test tool benefit companies during development and implementation procedures?

16:00-16:25pm Future Skies Theatre

How Space-Enabled Global VHF Communications can Transform Air Traffic Management

Get crucial insights on the implementation of space-based Very High Frequency (VHF) for air navigation service providers. In this engaging session, industry experts will explore the key benefits and challenges.

A final highlight of the day is the presentation of the Air Traffic Management Awards, presented in partnership with Air Traffic Management Magazine. Across five categories, the awards will acknowledge the pioneering concepts, initiatives, and significant achievements of leaders and organisations in the air traffic management industry and are open to all ATM, UTM, UAM, UAS and Space stakeholders. 

The reality of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a much-hyped concept in recent years, touted as a transformative technology for aviation and many other industries.

At the CANSO Executive Summit 2024, delegates heard about AI opportunities and challenges in air traffic management from experts in the field. A keynote presentation by Dr. Mark Esposito, Professor of Strategy and Economics, Hult International Business School and advisor to governments was followed by a high-level panel discussion.

Dr. Esposito began by explaining the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset that began in 2020, which essentially aims to determine strategies that are relevant to the post-pandemic world.

He noted that beyond the headlines of various crises, world trade and connectivity is increasing. But the pain points in this complex structure can’t be managed by old tools. And this is where AI comes in. Dr. Esposito said that, by 2030, the world will begin what he called Globalisation 2.0 or the Cognitive Economy. Everything will shift to favour those organisations that can optimise human-to-everything relationships.

The Cognitive Economy has many drivers. It was noted, for example, that the pandemic pushed internet use to new highs, with increases of 30 per cent in many countries. This leads to increasing amounts of data. As it stands, only 0.5 per cent of data is analysed, meaning data waste is huge. But, as data becomes structured and analysed – in other words, data quality improves – trust will increase and so will trust in AI.

On the panel, Marie-Pier Berman, Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA, made the point that people accept human error but not computer error. This does change over time, however. Berman cited the example of humans operating the first elevators so that people would be confident enough to use them. Now, a human operating an elevator would make people think that something was wrong.

This raises the fear that AI will replace humans. But Dr. Esposito stressed this was not the case and suggested that AI should be thought of as human augmentation. It is there to support human decision-making rather than replace it.

Nevertheless, it was accepted that traffic is increasing to levels that will certainly necessitate the use of AI across all ATM operations.

The panel agreed that it was still early days in terms of integrating AI into safety-critical systems. Initial uses are likely to centre on such topics as runway configuration, flow management and training. These would all reduce the burden on the human.

Parimal Kopardekar, Director, NASA Aeronautics Research Institute, pointed out that there are only so many parameters that a human can consider and arrive at a decision in a reasonable time frame. AI can quickly do all the hard work and allow a human to make an informed decision.

He also explained that there are two possible types of decision that AI could make. A strategic decision, such as long-term capacity planning is easily reversible if different factors come into play. Tactical decisions, however, are immediate and non-reversible. And this is where humans must always play a role.

Kopardekar also explained that a good architecture would see a completely deterministic safety module sit on top of AI to ensure that AI never did anything that threatened safety. Another safeguard is to ensure visibility on what the AI is learning so that experts can step in to correct it if necessary before it starts to incorporate these lessons in its programming. “We need to put on guard rails,” he said.

The panel ended with discussions on collaboration and certification. The former is essential to establish rules that are followed globally while the latter has working groups examining the thorny issue as the industry has not had to deal with non-deterministic systems before.

“Boundaries will change, and this will be a constantly evolving space,” concluded Dr. Esposito.

The Panel

  • Eduard Gringinger, Principal Data Scientist, Frequentis
  • Juliette Mattioli, Senior Expert in AI, Thales
  • Kevin Hightower, VP of Product, Cirium
  • Marie-Pier Berman, Chief of Operations, NAV CANADA
  • Mark Esposito, Professor of Strategy and Economics, Hult International Business School
  • Parimal Kopardekar, Director, NASA Aeronautics Research Institute

You can listen to Dr. Esposito’s speech and a Q&A with CANSO Director General, Simon Hocquard in a special edition of the new CANSO Air traffic Management Podcast, available on Spotify, Apple, and all the major Podcast platforms. Listen here.

Business continuity in a volatile world

Aviation is a dynamic industry and endures more than its fair share of crises, including health-related events, extreme weather and geopolitical instability.

But Micilia Albertus-Verboom, Director General, Dutch Caribbean Air Navigation Service Provider (DC-ANSP), says that experience has taught ANSPs to become more resilient and agile. “ANSPs have demonstrated that when challenges emerge it is important to take early action and be flexible in financial and non-financial measures.”

Collaboration with all stakeholders is equally important if a crisis is to be successfully addressed. By collaborating with the various players in the aviation ecosystem, ANSPs can benefit from their partners’ experience, skills and lessons learned. That leads to ANSPs being able to make quick, informed decisions and so strengthens their resilience.

Albertus-Verboom adds that the biggest challenge is properly assessing the risks and potential responses. Simply, it is difficult for an ANSP to examine the myriad ways a complex industry like aviation can go wrong.

“The responsibility of the different actors within this process must be identified and acknowledged,” she says. “Leadership must assign sufficient financial and human resources before, during and post-event.”

The training of contingency procedures to ensure personnel are aware of the steps to take during a crisis event is key. “ANSPs should actively train to adapt to changing routines and to prepare for the unexpected to match the changing requirements of possible scenarios,” Albertus-Verboom concludes. “Periodical training of the contingency procedures is a must.”

To learn more, visit the Indra Theatre, Tuesday 19 March at 10:00 to hear Micilia and a panel discuss: Crisis Management in Air Traffic Management: Ensuring Business Continuity.

Airspace World coming together on Super Sunday

Here’s the latest selection of pictures showing how Airspace World 2024 is coming together. The stands of our 170 exhibitors are in the final stages of their build, our theatres are ready, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our thousands of attendees on Tuesday.

Airspace World 2024 taking shape

The builders are in and Airspace World 2024 is coming together.

Here’s a selection of pictures from Friday 15 and Saturday 16 March that show how Airspace World 2024 is going to the be the biggest gathering of the ATM industry ever.

IACIT confirms presence at Airspace World in Geneva

Brazilian industry will showcase investment in the development and enhancement of new technologies to ensure safer flights.

IACIT we will be present at Airspace World 2024 at booth K08, where it will present its comprehensive portfolio of high-tech solutions and services, consolidated over more than 37 years of experience in this sector. Among the highlights are the RMT 0200 Weather Radar, developed for detecting meteorological phenomena over long distances, and the DME 0200 (Distance Measuring Equipment), a Brazilian equipment that supports spatial location in air navigation and Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), offering as a backup for GPS navigation.

Furthermore, the DRONEBLOCKER will be showcased, a system of electronical countermeasure system to detect and block the presence of drones at airports. IACIT actively positions itself in seeking solutions to overcome this problem that affects aviation security, and has been pursuing the best solutions to combat these and other threats that make appear, presenting comprehensive systems for sensing, situational awareness, and blocking against unauthorised drone incursions.

The event will be also an opportunity for IACIT to present the GBAS (Ground-Based Augmentation System), which offers differential corrections and integrity monitoring of GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), allowing navigation procedures and for precise airport approach, providing better support for system operators to have accurate information. The system also allows noise reduction, flight time and fuel savings, and more efficient routes, enabling new routes more quickly, with just the system configuration.

Bruno Vicente, Executive of International Sales at IACIT, is excited about the company’s participation in Airspace World 2024, highlighting it as the premier global event for booth manned and unmanned airspace management, where innovators and technology owners come together to discuss the future of the sector.