Creating a Blueprint for the Sky
Over the past 50 years, air traffic management (ATM) has remained stable, secure, and safe. But as Airbus UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) Head of Deployment Jessie Mooberry sees it, the entire ATM ecosystem is about to be redefined as new aircraft flying new types of missions enter and share the airspace.
“Radical change is just a couple years away,” Mooberry predicts.
She believes this is due to increased demand for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) solutions, which range from a drone-powered package delivery service to multi-passenger commuting via self-piloted electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
The challenge of ensuring the safe integration of UAM solutions in the same airspace as existing air traffic isn’t something Mooberry takes lightly. The Airbus UTM team is working with policymakers, technologists and NGOs to lay the groundwork for the safest, most efficient unmanned traffic system. Their objective is to help to radically redefine ATM.
“In a world in which companies like Amazon are planning to deploy thousands of delivery drones in major cities using the same airspace as eVTOLs and conventional aircraft, air traffic controllers will not be able to handle this influx of aircraft with the current ATM system,”
observes Mooberry. “So designing our future airspace is about adding the appropriate infrastructure, organization, and tools necessary to securely navigate our skies.”
Airbus’ Blueprint for the Sky
This vision of our future airspace is outlined in Airbus’ roadmap for unmanned traffic management (UTM) entitled ‘Blueprint for the Sky’, which helps to explain the challenges and opportunities of implementing UTM.
“Essentially, we’re looking at creating an entirely new ecosystem for ATM,” says Mooberry. “We strived to provide a unified language and vision for the interoperable deployment of UTM around the world.”
Safety Remains Paramount
Beyond logistics, Mooberry says Airbus’ focus on safety remains paramount. “Airbus wants to facilitate future airborne transportation solutions, but we also want to roll out these solutions in a responsible fashion. And working with policymakers and communities is a key part of this effort.”
To this end, Airbus UTM is involved in a variety of social perception and engagement studies. This includes talking to people in various communities to have a clear understanding of their common concerns about urban air mobility. In the recently published Airbus UTM Preliminary Community Perception Study, which surveyed 1,540 residents from the US, Mexico, Switzerland and New Zealand, nearly one out of two respondents were in favor of UAM implementation. However, respondents expressed concerns frequency and time of service, as well as sound volumes generated by aerial vehicles.
“These studies help us to realize that before we can scale a UTM system, there are still several social and technical challenges that need to be addressed,”
says Mooberry. “Dealing with safety concerns could mean supporting more flights over sparsely-populated areas, such as waterways and open fields. In response to noise concerns, we may need to look at trying to achieve sound volumes similar to a passing car or a buzzing bee, as opposed to those of a truck or helicopter.”
Despite these challenges, Mooberry relishes the prospect of helping to define how our future skies will be regulated and managed, with the overall aim of introducing a safe, scalable and efficient infrastructure to transport the people and goods of tomorrow.
The future of air traffic management…will be redefined as it aids humans in safely directing large quantities of air traffic flow.
Our goal... is to introduce a safe, scalable, and efficient infrastructure to transport the people and goods of tomorrow.
With unmanned traffic management… there are still social and technical challenges that need to be addressed.
Urban air mobility… is only 5-10 years away.
We want to roll out urban air mobility… in a responsible fashion, and working with policymakers and communities is a key part of this effort.