Urban Air Mobility services carried out with drones in densely populated areas represent a evolving reality. The Italian demonstration of the CORUS-XUAM project, which took place on 7-8-9 June 2022 in the Grottaglie-Manduria area, confirmed the current maturity of technological and operational systems for the coordination and interoperability of the ATM and U-Space (the airspace dedicated to drones) is already adequate to operate medical transport services with drones in peri-urban and urban areas.
The CORUS-XUAM project, co-financed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking through the European Horizon 2020 program, coordinated by EUROCONTROL, aims to test integrated operations of manned and unmanned aircrafts of different categories, through the use of advanced U-space services, in urban and extra-urban environments and in airport airspace. The ways to facilitate the development of a specific interface between the U-Space world and that of Air Traffic Management were also studied. Within the
project, different demonstration campaigns are identified in seven European countries: Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The primary objective of the Italian demonstration is to carry out Urban Air Mobility operations, performed with Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) and aircraft piloted within the U-Space. The latter represents a set of automated digital functions and processes in a defined airspace, aimed at guaranteeing drones and other operators full integration into the airspace in a safe and efficient way. The U-Space provides a reference framework to facilitate the conduct of flight operations of all kinds, even in the urban and sub-urban context.
The type of Urban Air Mobility operation object of the demonstration is related to emergency transport contextualized in a varied operational and logistic scenarios involving a civil airport, an airfield located in
a sub-urban area and an urban area.
The scenario represented includes a cargo UAS for the transport of medical goods from a central hub (in the real scenario the Grottaglie airport and Test Bed), up to a ‘drone port’ (the sub-urban airfield, AEROTRE Aviosuperfice Manduria). At the same time, and within safe limits, other UAS operations were conducted. The U-Space services, provided by the platform of D-Flight and used by all drone pilots
involved, have allowed a safe management of the various operations, in relation to the obligations of flight authorization for both the tracking and monitoring of UAS operations.
During the demonstrations, the D-Flight Drone Detection System was used, a system equipped with antennas and software tools, capable of detecting the presence of “non-cooperative” drones, identifying the serial number, the owner’s name, the position of the pilot with relative take-off coordinates, flight path, position, direction, altitude and speed.
In addition to ENAV and D-Flight, the other partners are Pipistrel Vertical Solutions (Slovenia), operator of the manned cargo, Techno Sky, a company of the ENAV Italia Group as UAS operator and manager of the
“last mile delivery” BVLOS operation, the Aerospace Technological District – DTA (Italy) which coordinated the authorization and experimental logistic activity at the Grottaglie airport test bed, and NAIS – Nextant Applications and Innovative Solutions (Italy), which has completed the task of reporting the results validation for the aspects of safety, accessibility and equity of airspace, cyber security, and human performance.
For the DTA, the CORUS-XUAM project highlights that the Grottaglie Airport Test Bed is a tool for the development of innovative knowledge for the automation of air traffic management services and Urban Air Mobility services towards a sustainable transport system, it is a driving force for integrated and coordinated technological development for national and European companies, it is an attraction factor for
investments and industrial development in Puglia.
Urban air mobility therefore represents one of the most sustainable systems for the future of transport and, as with traditional air mobility, research, development and innovation activities are necessary
to develop concepts and enabling technologies for the implementation of the urban and sub-urban airspace management system.