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Wingcopter Receives FAA Airworthiness Criteria Approval

The FAA just gave Special Class Airworthiness Criteria approval to the Wingcopter 198 drone. (Photo courtesy of Wingcopter)

The delivery drone manufacturer, Wingcopter, just received the Special Class Airworthiness Criteria approval of its Wingcopter 198 unmanned aircraft from the Federal Aviation Administration. Tom Plümmer, co-founder and CEO of Wingcopter, remarked that this was a significant milestone for their team in the type certification process, and it was also important for the company’s efforts to expand internationally. “We are proud to be among the first delivery drone companies worldwide to ever get their Airworthiness Criteria approved by the FAA,” he stated in the announcement from Wingcopter.

Wingcopter has a growing network of partners for distribution of its delivery drone, including the ITOCHU Corporation, a Japanese general trading company. Along with investing in Wingcopter, ITOCHU signed an agreement with the drone manufacturer in March to join their Authorized Partnership Program. Synerjet Corp, a Latin American aviation company, is also an authorized partner of Wingcopter, and operates in several countries including Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Brazil, Chile, and Guatemala.

“We will set up delivery networks that span whole regions, allowing the instant and on-demand delivery of any kind of urgently needed goods,” CEO Tom Plümmer told Avionics earlier this year. An announcement in February made public the news of Wingcopter’s partnership with UAV del Peru, a subsidiary of UAV LATAM. Wingcopter will provide its cargo drones to enable delivery operations in Peru for commercial use cases as well as humanitarian efforts.

The all-electric 198 model was announced in April 2021. A highlighted feature of the autonomous aircraft is its capability to make “triple-drop” deliveries during a single flight. Wingcopter also noted that one single operator will be able to manage 10 of its drones at a time, rather than one operator needed per drone.

The FAA initially proposed airworthiness criteria for 10 drone companies back in November 2020. These companies all design fully-electric unmanned aircraft, including both fixed-wing and rotorcraft models, weighing between 5–89 pounds. Besides Wingcopter, the companies included: Amazon, 3D Robotics, Percepto, Airobotics, Flirtey, Flytrex, Matternet, Telegrid, and Zipline.

The proposed airworthiness criteria from the FAA included design and construction requirements, operating limitations, testing requirements, and a concept of operations, among numerous other criteria.

Wingcopter originally applied for the Special Class Type Certificate in March 2020. Following the FAA’s Special Class Airworthiness Criteria approval, Wingcopter will continue its efforts in developing the 198 drone to ensure that it meets the FAA’s requirements for certification. According to the company, “Once type-certified, Wingcopter will be able to fly conventional routes through airspace and over populated areas, ultimately providing the basis for scaling commercial drone delivery operations across the U.S.”

The post Wingcopter Receives FAA Airworthiness Criteria Approval appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Webinar: Need Safety? When Design Assurance is Required and When it’s Not

On Wednesday, May 18, at 2 PM ET, Wind River and Mercury Systems will host a live webinar discussing design assurance is required and when it is not in the process of developing safety critical avionics applications. 

 

Aircraft and autonomous platforms use systems with design assurance to ensure safety, enabling pilots to make accurate, split-second decisions and ensuring self-driving vehicles navigate appropriately and on-time.

Obviously, safety-critical applications require different levels of assurance; but applications that don’t traditionally require safety assurance may also greatly benefit from it.

Here a list of questions the experts from Wind River and Mercury Systems will attempt to answer during their webinar next week.

  • What is design assurance/safety and what are its security and reliability benefits?
  • Is safety needed? Use cases
  • Achieving Safety Requirements: Technology and Architecture
  • Enabling Future Autonomous Aircraft – UAM, AAM & others via AI/ML/Cloud

Join Alex Wilson, Director, A&D Industry Solutions at Wind River, and Yves Mathys, VP of product management at Mercury Systems, to learn more. FREE registration is available to watch live or on-demand here: Webinar Registration.

 

 

The post Webinar: Need Safety? When Design Assurance is Required and When it’s Not appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Southwest to Upgrade Anuvu IFC, Add Viasat to New 737s on Order

Southwest Airlines is upgrading the in-flight connectivity service and adding new USB power ports to the seats of its aircraft. (Photo, courtesy of Southwest Airlines)

Southwest Airlines has announced a new $2 billion investment into its current and future all-Boeing 737 fleet that includes upgrades to Anuvu’s next generation in-flight connectivity (IFC) network on some of its in-service aircraft, while all new orders will be equipped with Viasat’s Ka-band IFC service.

According a May 11 announcement from Southwest, starting in the fall, Viasat’s satellite antennas, modems, wireless access points, and other IFC enabling hardware and software will be factory installed on all new aircraft deliveries. Southwest’s 2021 annual report, published in February, shows that the Dallas, Texas-based low cost carrier has firm 394 outstanding orders for the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 8 aircraft.

The Viasat installations will enable both IFC and live television services.

“We’re investing in our onboard connectivity and bandwidth available to each Customer with upgraded technology that’s now installing across our existing fleet, a strategy to diversify our WiFi vendors on upcoming aircraft deliveries, and plugging Southwest customers into in-seat power to keep them charged while in the air,” Ryan Green, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Southwest Airlines, said in a statement.

Southwest has become Viasat’s latest in a series of airline in-flight Wi-Fi wins, after the company signed Delta Air Lines and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines last year, and new low-cost airline Breeze Airways in March.

“We admire Southwest Airlines’ deeply customer-centric vision. The overall passenger experience is enhanced by delivering connectivity inflight that is the same as the on the ground experience, from streaming your favorite video content to live television and accessing other internet-based applications during all phases of flight,” Don Buchman, Viasat’s vice president and general manager of commercial aviation, said in a statement. “We look forward to being a part of Southwest’s commitment to continually upping the bar.”

A Southwest Airlines 737 sits inside their new hangar in Houston, Texas. (Photo, courtesy of Southwest Airlines)

While Viasat’s Ka-band IFC will be added to the 737s Southwest has on order starting later this year, the airline will also be upgrading equipment on some of its existing fleet with “longstanding connectivity provider Anuvu’s latest-generation hardware capable of providing a significant improvement in speed and bandwidth up to 10 times the current hardware onboard.” Under a partnership with high throughput satellite manufacturer Astranis announced last year, Anuvu is launching a new constellation of “microGEO” satellites, with the first two of the total eight planned for the constellation scheduled to be launched early next year.

Plans are for the Anuvu latest-generation hardware to be onboard 50 in-service aircraft by the end of May, with a projected 350 aircraft upgraded by the end of October, according to Southwest.

Viasat will become the third IFC service provider to partner with Southwest, as the airline currently features both Anuvu and Panasonic Avionics connectivity onboard.

In addition to the IFC upgrades, Southwest plans to install the “latest-generation onboard USB A and USB C power ports” to every 737 MAX aircraft in its fleet beginning in early 2023.

“The ability to keep your devices charged while you are connected inflight is a request that we’ve heard consistently in ongoing conversations with our Customers,” Tony Roach, Vice President of Customer Experience and Customer Relations said in a statement. “With so much that our Customers love about doing business with Southwest, we’re constantly listening to our Employees and our Customers for improvement opportunities, and we’re excited to share some additional news and updates on this ongoing work.”

The post Southwest to Upgrade Anuvu IFC, Add Viasat to New 737s on Order appeared first on Aviation Today.

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OPINION: Is Electric Aviation a Far-Flung Fantasy, or Near-Team Reality?

Consumers and businesses alike have historically viewed electric aviation as a far-fetched fantasy, without realizing how close a reality this concept really is.

 

Within the airline industry, there has long been skepticism and doubt cast on the feasibility of functional electric aviation. But what truths do these doubts hold and where are industry experts severely underestimating the potential of electric aviation?

The skepticism held by many is not unfounded. Energy density per mass in batteries is currently not sufficient to power large aircrafts for long distance travel. Sustainable aviation fuel is still very costly, both in terms of price and agricultural land footprint impact. Hydrogen, besides not being a true green source of energy yet, has good energy density per mass, but not fantastic energy density per volume.

This has spurred the design and development of entirely new, and sometimes futuristic looking, aircrafts that could replace current solutions capable of transporting 60 or more passengers on medium to long-distance flights.

Electric aviation offers the potential for an entirely different market opportunity for commercial aviation that still fits within existing technology and infrastructures. It also propels the aviation industry forward in green energy initiatives – something that increasingly defines consumer behaviors and values and which companies and brands they support.

Air traffic Control Meets Climate Control 

Public support for initiatives around climate control, sustainability and protection of the environment has exploded during the pandemic. What’s more, these objectives have the potential to water the emergence of new needs for fast and green short distance commuting solutions.

Over the course of the pandemic we’ve witnessed mass departures from crowded, high-density and high cost of living cities to areas with more land, more space and a slower pace of life. There is a massive market opportunity to provide convenient, sustainable commuting solutions for people who choose to live away from major cities, but still want the option to occasionally commute to the main city when needed.

Short distance commuting solutions would offer consumers the ability to do just that. Air taxis or Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles have made tremendous progress in recent years, emerging as a viable green alternative to traditional transportation methods.

These air taxis would serve as the bridge between regional air transportation and offer radically sustainable solutions – from occasional commuting to and from the closest major cities, to local tourism, last or first airfreight leg, and critical medical evacuation or organ transport.

This translates to fully electric air taxis – powered by battery or H2 – servicing short to medium distance flights from a minimum of100 miles to a maximum 500 miles. This, according to the Brookings Institution, accounts for more than 50% of current US flights to locations that are not currently served but already equipped with infrastructures. There are thousands of small airports available in the US ready for small size aircraft, offering great coverage nationwide on small size platforms (like 9-20 PAX). These short distance, economical flights would be piloted by expert pilots who closely understand how electric aviation works.

These small electric aircraft will enable to emergence of “green labeled” local tourism – a new option for consumers looking to commute in more environmentally conscious ways.

AirTaxis would offer the ability for consumers to cut out needless pollution during their short distance commutes or vacations. Consider flying over the Great Barrier Reef or Iguazu falls, an experience made more feasible and environmentally friendly through electric aviation. A family dreaming of leaving central LA could easily take overnight trips to off-the-grid local ski resorts, and busy working professionals could sneak in a quick evening away from busy San Francisco to grab dinner and soak in nature at Lake Tahoe.

Leaders in the space expect long distance commuting to become the norm, as remote and hybrid work continue to dominate worker preferences. Commuters will have the ability to live in Spokane and commute to Seattle when needed, knowing they’re using one of the greenest, fastest and most reliable methods available.

There is no doubt that among the many businesses currently designing, financing and even testing and flying electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) platforms, some of them will propose truly innovative, comfortable and safe solutions.

(Photo, courtesy of ANSYS.)

When Will We Arrive at a Flying Car Reality?

Despite the hopeful outlook there is still much that needs to be done to make this industry a reality. A few of the highest priority needs include:

  • An aircraft or flying platform
  • A source of green energy, e.g. H2 or batteries
  • Infrastructures to transport, store and distribute the source of energy to the point of use (the aircraft)
  • Certification and air traffic control solutions
  • Infrastructures for the landing/take off
  • Last mile transportation of passengers to and from those locations
  • Pilots, trained and experienced in electric aviation
  • Noise control
  • Airlines or operators interested and ready to invest capital in new platforms to open new routes

In addition, current value per seat mile targets of eVTOL urban air taxi may not be economically viable in the foreseeable future for the vast majority of potential customers. That said, it is difficult to find a realistic estimate of the cost per mile for the passenger. Despite this, it is almost certain that solutions will emerge and UAM will become a reality. Some big names, such as Boeing with Wisk, are injecting massive amounts of money to make it happen sooner than later, but there is still a long road ahead.

With this close reality in mind, aviation companies need to align their strategies around the electric aircraft market. Continued industry resistance and skepticism towards electric aviation could result in companies being left behind and consumers wondering why their favorite airlines aren’t integrating green practices into their operations.

By doubling down on proven successful strategies within the aviation industry such as loyalty programs, targeted marketing strategies, in-flight perks, and more, aviation companies will be able to take full advantage of consumer interest in electric aviation when the time presents itself.

Businesses can prepare for the reality of electric aviation by understanding the merits it possesses and realizing that it is not a far-flung fantasy, but a close reality. By embracing a more sustainable and accessible method of transportation, businesses will be able to stay ahead of the curve while tapping into evolving (and greener) consumer behaviors and preferences. Electric aviation will be realized in the near future, and it is imperative that aviation companies act now in order to take full advantage of the benefits this green future will hold.

 

 

The post OPINION: Is Electric Aviation a Far-Flung Fantasy, or Near-Team Reality? appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Raytheon Technologies’ New Venture Arm Invests In Hypersonic Aircraft Company Hermeus

Hermeus’ remotely piloted hypersonic aircraft Quarterhorse. (Photo, courtesy of Hermeus.)

RTX Ventures, a capital investment group recently set up by Raytheon Technologies, on Thursday said it made a strategic investment in the start-up company Hermeus Corp., which is developing hypersonic aircraft for commercial and defense applications.

The value of the investment wasn’t disclosed but is part of a $100 million Series B financing round announced in March that is led by investor Sam Altman and includes Founder’s Fund, In-Q-Tel, Khosla Ventures, Canaan Partners, Bling Capital, and the seed fund Revolution’s Rise of the Rest.

Hermeus said the funding round will allow it to finish development of its first aircraft, Quarterhorse—a remotely piloted aircraft scheduled to fly in 2023—begin flight services operations, and accelerate development of Darkhorse, an uncrewed aircraft that can sustain hypersonic flight. Work on Darkhorse will help the inform development of Halcyon, the company’s commercial passenger aircraft.

“Hypersonic technologies are of critical national importance to national security, which is why we made our first investment in a company with such a bold plan and vision in this space,” Daniel Ateya, managing director of RTX Ventures, said in a statement. “Hermeus’ technical approach and business plan balances near-term defense applications with long-term commercial aspirations and will help our customers reimagine the possibilities of hypersonic technologies.”

In addition to the funding, the RTX Ventures investment gives Hermeus access to Raytheon Technologies’ thousands of engineers, development centers, mentors and business leaders.

RTX Ventures aligns its investments with Raytheon Technologies technology focus areas, with an emphasis on secure and connected ecosystems, autonomy and artificial intelligence, power and propulsion systems, and precision sensing and effects.

The post Raytheon Technologies’ New Venture Arm Invests In Hypersonic Aircraft Company Hermeus appeared first on Aviation Today.

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United Signs International Purchase Agreement for Sustainable Aviation Fuel

United is the first U.S. airline to sign an international purchase agreement for sustainable aviation fuel. (Photo courtesy of United)

This week, United Airlines announced a purchase agreement with Neste for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). United is now the first U.S. airline to sign an international purchase agreement for SAF, and will be able to buy more than 50 million gallons of SAF over the next three years. According to the announcement, the SAF purchased from Neste will fuel United flights from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

Neste’s SAF is made from renewable waste and residue raw materials that are sustainably sourced. The process involves using hydrogen to turn cooking oil, animal fat, and other materials into HEFA (hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids) fuels, or SAF. As Neste increases production of SAF, the company may be able to supply SAF for United Airlines at additional airports around the world. Thorsten Lange, Executive Vice President of Renewable Aviation at Neste, expressed his excitement for the new partnership with United: “Our global, fast-growing SAF production and supply chain supports airlines and their customers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” 

Neste will supply 2.5 million gallons of SAF to United Airlines in the first year of the agreement. United will be able to purchase 20 million gallons during the second year, and 30 million gallons in the third year of the agreement. (Photo courtesy of United)

This is the largest SAF purchase agreement made by Neste to provide SAF for a passenger airline. Neste has a goal of producing 515 million gallons of SAF annually, which it hopes to achieve by the end of next year.

Sustainable aviation fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel. United has demonstrated its strong commitment to reaching its goal of zero emissions by the year 2050 by signing this new purchase agreement with Neste. Lauren Riley, Chief Sustainability Officer at United, explained that reducing fuel emissions is the fastest way to achieve their sustainability goals. “The demand from our customers to limit their emissions from flying is growing exponentially, and this agreement means that United customers flying from Amsterdam and potentially other airports will be partners in our sustainability efforts,” she remarked in the airline’s announcement.

United Airlines has taken several steps to move towards the goal of zero emissions by 2050. Using more SAF in its operations is one of the fastest ways to reach that objective. (Photo courtesy of United)

United’s mission to reach net zero emissions by 2050 includes supporting the development of electric aircraft, as shown in their recent partnership with Archer Aviation. The two companies formed a joint advisory committee, announced in April, to support development of Archer’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. United has already agreed to purchase 200 eVTOL aircraft from Archer.

United also made headlines in December 2021 when they announced completion of the first commercial flight using 100% sustainable fuel. The aircraft transported more than 100 passengers from Chicago to Washington, D.C. and used 500 gallons of SAF. Boeing, CFM International, Virent, and World Energy supported this achievement.

The post United Signs International Purchase Agreement for Sustainable Aviation Fuel appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Lilium Completes Second EASA Design Organization Approval Audit

Lilium completed its second Design Organization Approval (DOA) audit by EASA “with flying colors,” according to CTO Alastair McIntosh. (Photo courtesy of Lilium)

Lilium recently announced successful completion of its second Design Organization Approval (DOA) audit by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Lilium is working towards type certification of its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the Lilium Jet, with both EASA and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. 

EASA requires all commercial aircraft manufacturers to comply with Part 21 Subpart J by completing four total DOA audits in order to achieve aircraft type certification. Lilium’s Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Alastair McIntosh, spoke to Avionics International about the significance of achieving this latest milestone.

“It’s a rigorous process,”McIntosh said. “You have to prove that you’re an organization that is fit to undertake aircraft type certificate programs. It’s one thing to claim capability, and another to demonstrate it.”

Lilium’s team was required to demonstrate the company’s organizational structure, the capability of staff members, and the ability to maintain practices and procedures during the DOA audit. “The first audit was about demonstrating fundamentals, what the structure looks like, staff, training, how we maintain it. The second audit that we just went through focused more on core principles—how we do data management, configuration control,” he explained.

The team from EASA spent about three days in-house carrying out the rigorous process of the DOA audit, speaking to multiple engineers and participating in guided tours throughout Lilium’s facilities. 

“Without having that DOA, we would not be able to certify the aircraft,” McIntosh stated. “It’s a big step forward for us, to bring control into an organization that is very entrepreneurial and dynamic. Particularly in terms of regulation—the aviation industry is regulated to maintain high levels of safety. We’re really happy to have passed the first two audits with flying colors.”

Pictured above is an engineer installing a flap on the Lilium Jet technology demonstrator. (Photo courtesy of Lilium)

Lilium continues to work towards certification and entry into service in 2025. McIntosh mentioned that they completed their preliminary design review at the end of 2021 and have made some announcements about refinements to the aircraft. 

“Now we head into the stage of critical design review and providing detailed data and definition to the supply chain so they can start manufacturing components. We anticipate moving forward from the end of May onwards, releasing more data and definition to the supply chain.”

At the end of next year, McIntosh commented, they will be getting their first aircraft ready to start the flight test program which will last about 18 months. Lilium will use the data gathered during the flight test program to support their efforts to achieve certification in 2025. He predicts that the third audit will happen around December of this year, and the fourth and final DOA audit will likely take place just before certification. 

“We’ve had a really good working relationship with EASA,” McIntosh said. “Our discussions have been really critical in shaping the design to make sure it’s compliant and that we can demonstrate compliance going forward. The EASA team actually owns the relationship with the FAA; they secure that concurrent validation on our behalf.”

The news of a second successful DOA audit followed two other big announcements from Lilium this year. In March, the company entered into a purchase agreement with NetJets for 150 aircraft. And just last month, Lilium announced the start of the next phase of flight testing for its eVTOL in Spain.

Lilium also had a busy year in 2021. April marked the reveal of the design of Lilium’s eVTOL aircraft, and in June, the company released details about the path to certification for its 7-seater jet. In August, Lilium announced a partnership with Brazilian airline, Azulu S.A., including a $1 billion purchase order, and in September 2021, Lilium became a publicly traded company following a business combination with Qell Acquisition Corp.

The post Lilium Completes Second EASA Design Organization Approval Audit appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Saudi Arabia’s $100 Billion Investment in Aviation to Enable ATM Upgrades, New Airline and Airspace Entrants

Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser, speaking at the Future Aviation Forum in Riyadh. (Photo, courtesy of Arab News)

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) committed to investing $100 billion—356 billion SAR—into its aviation sector by 2030 in an effort to upgrade its air traffic infrastructure, launch a new national carrier, and provide a path for new airspace entrants such as drones and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, according to comments made by government and industry leaders speaking at the two-day inaugural Future Aviation Forum (FAF) in Riyadh.

“Over the next 10 years, the Kingdom will emerge as the Middle East’s leading aviation hub,” Saudi Minister of Transport Saleh Al-Jasser said during his opening keynote.

Al-Jasser said the $100 billion investment will come through a combination of private and public funding, and is aligned with the nation’s Vision 2030 framework first released in 2016 to outline how Saudi Arabia can become less dependent on oil as the centerpiece of its economy. The minister said Saudi Arabia expects its domestic airlines to collectively carry more than 330 million passengers annually by 2030, transport 5 million tons of freight, and establish connections to more than 250 destinations around the world.

The minister’s transportation department has already started down the path of its $100 billion investment strategy by transferring 25 of its previously state-run airports into a private holding company. “Recently we have approved hundreds of aircraft orders and started opening new routes to many of the countries and nations represented here at this event,” Al-Jasser said.

Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) launched a new “Harmonising Air Travel” policy, that it hopes will also be submitted to the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) General Assembly meeting in October. GACA’s 39-page white paper aims to achieve what other aviation digital health passport initiatives—such as IATA’s Travel Pass—have not been able to amid the COVID-19 pandemic: provide a digital health passport that is managed and accepted by all countries.

In the white paper, GACA effectively provides an overview of how confusing the process of traveling internationally can be for vaccinated airline passengers trying to determine if they need a negative COVID-19 test result when traveling across borders.

“The global Digital Health Certificate (DHC) is defined here as a globally standardised travel document that would be delivered at the national level by health authorities in electronic format and include the vaccine information of passengers. The DHC would be recognised by all domestic applications (to be QR readable),” GACA writes in the white paper.

Air traffic management (ATM) modernization is another major goal that the KSA seeks to achieve with its investment in aviation through 2030. On that front, Saudi Air Navigation Services (SANS)—which first became a private company in 2016—signed several technology and training agreements during the event. One of the most prominent agreements was signed with Indra Sistemas, to establish what will become the first virtual air traffic control tower in the Middle East.

Saudi Air Navigation Services and Indra Sistemas signed an agreement to deploy the first virtual air traffic tower system in the Middle East. (Photo, courtesy of SANS)

During his participation in a panel entitled “Air Traffic Management and Airspace Modernization” that included representatives from ICAO, Thales, and Indra, among others, SANS CEO Eng. Abdulaziz Al Zaid said ATM modernization is needed in Saudi Arabia to account for an expected increase in passenger air traffic over the next decade. Al Zaid said that in the first quarter of 2022, KSA had already recovered to 100 percent of the domestic and international passenger air traffic volume recorded during the same pre-pandemic period in 2019.

The SANS executive also discussed how he sees a need for ANSPs and regulators to take a different approach to managing the operations of new lower altitude airspace entrants.

SAMI Advanced Electronics, the Riyadh-based aerospace and defense manufacturer, showcased its “Bariq” drone pictured here during the Future Aviation Forum.

“Today we segregate between ATM and UTM (unmanned traffic management), and this segregation creates the “threat” of what could happen with a BVLOS drone. Actually, we should treat it as a traffic management, it is one system, one airspace,” Al Zaid said. “This should be enabled by a system and technology that will be able to do the proper segregation and have a safe operation between all of the airspace users. This is the true way we should envision the future, there should be no UTM and ATM, it’s just traffic management and one airspace.”

GACA is also using a joint venture established between NEOM—a “smart city” currently being developed in the northwestern region of Saudi Arabia—and German eVTOL maker Volocopter to develop a regulatory framework and concept of operations for eVTOL operations in the future. Captain Sulaiman Almuhaimedi, Vice President of safety and aviation standards for GACA, explained the goals of the Volocopter partnership during an appearance on the “Destination: Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Solutions” panel.

Sulaiman described the NEOM-Volocopter initiative as “a project that will act as an incubator and test lab for such technologies, proof of concepts, where we can as a regulator have an access into reliable data where we can utilize and capitalize in order to develop a regulatory framework that will enable the industry to achieve its objectives.”

GACA’s Saudi Aviation Strategy document—a white paper released during the event—calls for the establishment of new special economic zones, “a project that will act as an incubator and test lab for such technologies, proof of concepts, where we can as a regulator have an access into reliable data where we can utilize and capitalize in order to develop a regulatory framework that will enable the industry to achieve its objectives.” GACA expects the new zones to expand air freight operations in Saudi Arabia from 0.8 tons today to 4.5 million tons by 2030.

Overall, the agency expects its strategy to allow KSA’s air transport efficiency ranking to become “among the top 5 ranked globally by 2030.”

The post Saudi Arabia’s $100 Billion Investment in Aviation to Enable ATM Upgrades, New Airline and Airspace Entrants appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Embraer, Eve, and Daedalean Test Systems for Autonomous Flight

Embraer completed multiple experimental flights in partnership with Eve Urban Air Mobility, Daedalean, Iris Automation, and Near Earth Autonomy to explore the use of autonomous technologies. (Photo courtesy of Daedalean)

Embraer and its subsidiary Eve recently completed a series of flights to test new autonomous system technologies, collecting data via piloted helicopters for Embraer’s Autonomous Systems project (Project EASy). Partners that contributed directly to this project include Iris Automation, Near Earth Autonomy, and Daedalean.

Eve’s co-CEO, Andre Stein, commented on the value of conducting these experimental flights, saying, “All information and data raised in this project, as well as the technical solutions under development, will set the path for fully autonomous flight of eVTOLs in the future,” in the company’s announcement.

The CEO of Daedalean, Luuk van Dijk, commented on their participation in this project as well as the company’s unique offerings. Based in Switzerland, Daedalean creates autonomous piloting software systems to implement in general aviation and future advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft. “When UAM [urban air mobility] overcomes all the challenges it is facing—technological, regulatory, public acceptance, air traffic management, physical infrastructure—it is expected to become a hundred-billion-dollar market,” he explained in an emailed statement to Avionics. “But there are three problems that block it from becoming a sound business case: safety, economics, and capacity.”

Embraer’s Autonomous Systems project (“Project EASy”) uses the agile testing process for developing solutions to support the future autonomous aviation industry. (Photo, courtesy of Eve)

These three challenges can be overcome through autonomous flight control, stated van Dijk. “Autonomy could be an excellent tool for assisting and supporting pilots, helping them to detect potential collisions and land more safely,” he remarked. In addition to increasing safety, autonomous piloting systems will significantly reduce costs and also address the problem of pilot shortages. 

Luuk van Dijk and the team at Daedalean view autonomy as the key enabler for the future AAM industry. “To fly air taxis or smaller cargo transports at a higher density at an equal or better level of safety, with human-human pilot-ATC communications over a voice channel, the system today can tolerate maybe 10 or 20 aircraft over a large city,” he explained. 

A screenshot of Daedalean’s camera-based landing guidance solution (Photo courtesy of Daedalean)

Daedalean’s solutions for visual traffic detection and camera-based navigation and landing guidance are unique in that they are based on input that is purely visual, said van Dijk. Though Daedalean’s systems can work with GPS, ADS-B, and ILS when available, they are capable of functioning without them. “Our system is the only one that can create situational awareness that, until now, was only possible for a conscious human being with working eyes and visual cortex,” he noted. “As we gather more and more data, improvements in the accuracy of all functions are continuous, especially when it comes to below-horizon traffic detection.”

Daedalean entered into a partnership last year with company Avidyne to introduce a new cockpit vision system. Daedalean contributed its artificial intelligence-based software to Avidyne’s avionics system, called PilotEye.

The solutions created by Daedalean were optimized for the experimental flights conducted by Embraer and Eve, intended to enable operation of autonomous aircraft in complex urban airspace. According to the announcement from Eve, they collaborated in exploring “nominal and edge-case scenarios for take-off, climb, cruise, approach, and landing flight phases.”

Head of Autonomous Systems at Embraer, Julio Bolzani, commented that the data collected from these flights will be used in future simulations. Embraer was also able to evaluate multiple technologies for autonomous flight in real-time. Bolzani added, “We are not going straight to fully autonomous operations. As Eve begins operations, pilots will be on board and will also benefit from the application of these technologies through a safer and simplified vehicle operation until we reach a fully certified autonomous flight system for Urban Air Mobility.”

The post Embraer, Eve, and Daedalean Test Systems for Autonomous Flight appeared first on Aviation Today.

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Belgian UTM Company Unifly Receives €10M in Investments

Unifly, based in Belgium, offers an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system. The company just announced €10 million in investments from Terra Drone Corporation and Japanese government fund JOIN.

Unifly, a Belgium-based UTM (unmanned traffic management) system provider, announced last week that they received €10 million in investments from Terra Drone Corporation and Japanese government fund JOIN. Unifly was founded in 2015 and initially operated as a spin-off company of the Flemish institute for technological research, VITO. The key features of their UTM platform are planning and managing drone operations, automating real-time maps of airspace activity, and in-flight communication with air traffic controllers (ATC).

In the last year, Unifly collaborated with air navigation service provider (ANSP) NAV CANADA in launching NAV Drone for operators to fly drones in the Canadian airspace. Two other recent achievements were partnering in development of an automated digital drone management platform as part of a contract with Spanish air navigation service provider (ANSP) ENAIRE, and developing and launching a UTM platform with Port of Antwerp. In addition to the UTM platform, Unifly also offers a broadcast location and identify platform (BLIP) in the form of a self-powered “e-identification” device.

The UTM system from Unifly enables authorities in real-time to monitor, approve, and manage drone operations in restricted zones.(Photo courtesy of Unifly)

The preparations to go live with a U-Space compliant system in Spain are underway, with partners working on implementation and demonstrations. The Spanish ANSP, Enaire, awarded the contract to the company Indra, in partnership with Airbus and Unifly. A key area of focus for Unifly is to guarantee scalability for a variety of use cases and functionalities to support increasing numbers of drones in operation.

Andres Van Swalm, co-founder of Unifly, offered some company updates and background in an interview with Avionics International. Before Unifly, he worked as an air traffic controller for the military. His knowledge and expertise in air traffic management (ATM) was particularly useful when founding Unifly and working to ensure safe operations in a complex airspace.

Pictured above is Unifly’s co-founder, Andres Van Swalm. (Photo, courtesy of Unifly)

“We want to use the investment to make sure our system is even more safe, secure, and efficient,” Swalm said regarding the €10 million in funding they recently received from Terra Drone and JOIN. As the team at Unifly continues to build their platform, he explained, “We will make sure that the system is even more scalable, easier to deploy, and more configurable for customers—they can configure it themselves, build upon our platform, and make their own customizations.” Based on customer feedback, he said, these capabilities are incredibly important.

“Customers can, in a few months, deploy the entire UTM system and configure it according to all specifications and regulations of the country. In comparison, ATM integration takes years to implement.”

The platform enables drone pilots to safely plan, validate, and monitor their operations and flights. (Photo courtesy of Unifly)

A unique feature of Unifly’s UTM platform is that it can be deployed at any location independently of the cloud provider. The team had decided from the beginning not to build on one cloud provider. “We believe ANSPs will play an important role, so the unique feature of being independent from cloud is very important,” remarked Swalm.

Another key concept of the UTM platform is configurability. Each country has its own regulations, so building the system to be configurable enables deployment in multiple countries. “Compared to manned aircraft, drones are a local phenomenon. Also, because of batteries, drones mostly will fly locally,” Andres Van Swalm explained. “We knew from the start that we needed to be able to configure our system to support all types of regulation and implementation. We have done implementations in Canada, and are now deploying the U-space concept in several countries. Regardless of deployment model, our system is configurable and scalable.”

Unifly has also rebranded their application to offer multiple languages, according to customer specifications and requests. Lastly, Swalm explained, the application explains regulations in ways that are easy for both commercial and recreational drone operators to understand. 

One of Unifly’s contributions in the partnership with NAV CANADA was to automate the approval process, which increased efficiency and safety. Swalm noted, “When drones are going to operate within controlled airspace, instead of elaborate processes and emails [for approvals], we automated that process, ensuring lower risk for drone operators and more situational awareness for both operators and air traffic controllers.”

Swalm shared some details about the UTM platform launched at Port of Antwerp, which has become the first seaport in the world that manages its own airspace. “It’s a restricted airspace,” he stated. “Only aircraft which are permitted can fly there.” The Port of Antwerp itself has use cases for drones, and some of the companies located there, like BASF and Total, are also interested in starting drone operations. 

One use case of interest is automated oil spill detection. The Port of Antwerp also hopes to automatically detect intruder drones that do not have approval to operate in the airspace. Another capability of the UTM platform is enabling tactical deconfliction. “Within a few months, they will start autonomous drone operations,” Swalm said.

The post Belgian UTM Company Unifly Receives €10M in Investments appeared first on Aviation Today.

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