Singapore and Airbus have secured a deal to lay the foundations for potential services with both passenger and larger cargo carrying air vehicles throughout Singapore. The island-nation-state’s plan to improve regional connectivity builds on an earlier agreement established in 2016 between Airbus and Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAS) for proof-of-concept trials of a cargo-carrying Skyways unmanned air system.
Under the memorandum of understanding, Airbus and CAAS will develop an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system to support the early phase of the air mobility service. The two will also collaborate on developing a framework for safety and operating standards as well as study issues such as public acceptance. The framework will be based upon many of the learnings that have come out of Airbus’s Skyway program, which studied the ability to pre-program safe aerial routes for autonomous drones to execute short-range parcel deliveries.
According to Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice president of engineering for Airbus, “Skyways was a laboratory for UAM at a smaller scale. Now we need to go the extra mile, so with this agreement we are doing that. There are still questions of the business case and technology. In terms of business, we can see an appetite in the market, even though it’s a niche right now for more emergency needs where time is of the essence or where its value-added, like shore-to-ship deliveries.”
Technology studies will focus on traffic management as well as “the overall system, guarantees, performance, safety and cost,” says Dumont. “We are flying with a couple of vehicles and in that sense, we are already there. But when you are flying with 20 or 100 vehicles at the same time along given routes then you are defining a system and that’s what we are doing with UTM.” The vehicles that Airbus plans to implement in this program will likely be similar to what has already been developed and tested by the manufacturer. Just last month, the CityAirbus made its first untethered flight in Donauwörth, Germany, and the Vahana wrapped up its flight testing Pendleton Airport in Oregon.
This memorandum of understanding between Singapore and Airbus mirrors a similar agreement between Bell, Japan Airlines and Sumitomo Corp. to explore on-demand air mobility services in Japan. The partnership was announced just days prior, and centers on the use of the recently unveiled Nexus 4EX eVTOL, which plans to address air mobility studies as well as the required infrastructure and regulatory environment.
Why it’s important: Top urban air vehicle manufacturers are beginning to seek opportunities around the globe to stand up small-scale implementations of their technologies in a realistic environment. These applications and opportunities are signaling the increased readiness of the vehicles to be tested in a realistic environment in which the services can eventually be scaled to fulfill commercial passenger transportation needs. Incremental steps in these introductory applications are the key to proving the safety of the technology and garnering the required public acceptance in order to eventually make aerial mobility widespread.
Source // Aviation Week