SAPERE: First results from the cooperation between Distretto Tecnologico Aerospaziale and Municipalità of Bari

The SAPERE project (co-funded by the Regione Puglia with the INNOLABS call), coordinated by the project manager Antonio Zilli for Distretto Tecnologico Aerospaziale (aerospace technology cluster of Puglia, Italy), is about to end. On 22/02/2022 the Focus Group 3 – Services for drones met at the DTA laboratory in Grottaglie airport. The meeting was attended by the Commander of the Bari Local Police Gen. Dr. Michele Palumbo, with his collaborators, by DTA and by the project partners Leonardo and Planetek and two representatives of the d-flight company.

During the meeting, Antonio Zilli retraced the results of the SAPERE project which, in addition to the specific prototypes, include the development of the collaboration with the Municipality of Bari within the Drone Living Lab, also one of the results of the project, and the launch of various technology development initiatives that are producing new knowledge in the domain of ​​Urban Air Mobility (UAM), new experimental infrastructures in Grottaglie and Bari and new UAM service trials in the Bari metropolitan area. Among the project the following ones: ASSURED-UAM (co-funded by H2020), U-space2 and AURORA (co-funded by ESA), Casa delle Tecnologie (co-funded by MISE). Thanks to the SAPERE project and the results achieved, the city of Bari has been included as an experimental city in the Strategic Plan for the development of Advanced Air Mobility of ENAC.

Zilli (DTA) highlights that ‘aerospace technologies increasingly directly impact on quality of life and safety of cities. The active participation of the Municipality of Bari, confirmed in other ongoing initiatives led by DTA, facilitates the large-scale experimentation of complex services, such as Urban Air Mobility or Advanced Air Mobility services, necessary for the growth of the innovative capacities of the national aerospace system in such a challenging technological domain.’

Deputy Mayor Prof. Eugenio Di Sciascio, who supported the SAPERE project from the beginning with ideas and actions and integrated it into the wider development plan of the city of Bari, on the basis of these results expressed his satisfaction: ‘a virtuous active cooperation between the research system, business and public bodies naturally leads to a strengthening of the operational capabilities of the Public Administration, to know in greater detail the state of the urban territory, and to govern the processes of change of the cities by accelerating them and solving citizens’ problems. The SAPERE project showed us the role of aerospace technologies, and in particular space Earth Observation and new services with drones, and their relevance for the development of Bari Smart City.’

The Focus Group 3 of the SAPERE project, in the previous months, has studied the main problems encountered by the Public Administration in the use of drones for urban security management and the problems that will emerge with the development of Urban Air Mobility. The city of Bari intends to favor the experimentation of new services with drones: environmental and territorial monitoring services and transport of goods. Operations with drones in urban airspace require the development and availability of U-space services, provided in Italy by d-flight. The participation of the Local Police of Bari in the SAPERE focus group made it possible to deal with operational problems in a very detailed and timely manner. In particular, it was possible to explore new ways of using drones to increase the reconnaissance capacity in the most critical and difficult to reach urban and peri-urban areas (degraded areas used for vandalism, such as illegal landfills, and also subject to malicious fires) and to design new air services for the benefit of citizens (environmental and territorial monitoring).

The meeting of the FG3 took place inside the DTA laboratory, the technological module of the Grottaglie Airport Test Bed. In the laboratory, Leonardo’s operators installed, in collaboration with the DTA, an integrated (live, virtual and constructive) simulation environment that allows to simulate UAS aerial operations in every class of airspace. Leonardo, with this laboratory, intends to develop knowledge on the ways of integrating drones in the airspace. The SAPERE project made it possible to understand the needs posed by the use of drones by the Public Administration (Municipality of Bari) and to install an instance of the UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) platform of d-flight specifically designed to allow future use in the development of operational concepts, to allow training in the use of the national platform and the study of mission planning, also containing the simulation of drone flight.

Within the SAPERE project, the Planetek company, in collaboration with the CNR and the University of Bari, has developed other innovative prototypes which, processing space Earth Observation data of the city of Bari, demonstrate that they can 1) measure the state of stability of the coasts, 2) assess changes in the coastline, 3) soil sealing, and 4) thermal zoning. The prototypes and the data acquired are available to operators of the Municipality of Bari.

The Drone Living Lab is characterized as a cooperative context among research, industry and end users. In this context, facilitated by the DTA, the processes of sharing knowledge, co-designing innovative solutions and testing prototypes, take place more easily and in a climate of mutual trust and allow the achievement of higher quality results in terms of problem solving and systems effectiveness.

The meeting ended with the evaluation of new scenarios and areas of collaboration between the DTA and the Bari Local Police which sees in the laboratory and in the available capacities the opportunity to anticipate and manage the changes in urban mobility brought about by autonomous road and air vehicles.