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Urban air mobility in the spotlight

CityAirbus presented in March at the City of Ingolstadt

Will UAM revolutionise

mobility in cities?

Airbus, FAA, Frequentis, MIT, NASA, Uber Elevate and 100+ participants from all over the world exchanged their ideas, concerns and latest research results on the topic at the latest ATM Research and Development Seminar.

The most hotly-debated topic at this year’s ATM Research and Development Seminar – held in Vienna 17-21 June - was urban air mobility (UAM). It was the subject of a keynote speech and a panel discussion: ‘Where will urban air mobility be in 20 years?’.

The seminar was organised jointly by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and EUROCONTROL; it covered the most recent research from both sides of the Atlantic. The conference allowed prominent ATM researchers to present and exchange their most recent findings, so contributing to the development of globally relevant solutions.

The seminar kicked off with three keynote addresses:

  • Alexis von Hoensbroech, CEO of Austrian Airlines, gave an airlines’ perspective on ATM;
  • Eric Mueller presented Uber Elevate’s vision on the future of urban air mobility;
  • Andrei Gurtov, Linkoping University, discussed CPDLC communication security.

The closing plenary featured Joseph Post from FAA giving the “NextGen Update”; Akbar Sultan from NASA following with the "Airspace Future Vision Beyond NextGen"; EUROCONTROL’s Paul Bosman providing "The European perspective" and Tatjana Bolić from the University of Trieste presenting news from the "Engage knowledge transfer network". A subsequent panel discussion was dedicated to UAM.

In addition to co-chairing the seminar, EUROCONTROL experts contributed with six research papers (two of which won the ‘best in track’ award), hosted workshop sessions and participated in panels and plenaries.

Questions about the direction the development of UAM included:

  • Will UAM revolutionise mobility in cities - or will it just be an exclusive and expensive mode of transport for a small number of very wealthy customers?;
  • How long will it take to improve the technology to the level that demonstrates that UAM aircraft are perfectly safe and will have a negligible impact on the environment?;
  • Who will provide traffic management services and how much will they cost?;
  • Will we have “air buses” rather than air taxis?;
  • How will the low-altitude aircraft integrate with airports - and will they be allowed anywhere near large hubs?;
  • Will shared air transportation be operational in 2023, as Uber advocates, or will it be repeatedly delayed due to technical and legislative obstacles, such as we have seen with autonomous ground vehicles?

Nobody can answer these questions with any degree of certainty at this stage, but the seminar helped experts with markedly different views exchange their ideas, concerns and latest research results on the topic.

The winning paper

The seminar ran along 14 tracks, covering an impressive range of issues in the ATM world. The Kevin Corker Award for the best paper of the seminar was awarded to Christine Taylor, Shin-Lai Tien, Erik Vargo and Craig Wanke from MITRE for “Strategic flight cancellation under ground delay program uncertainty”.

ATM R&D Seminar 2021 in New Orleans

The next seminar will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana, in June 2021. All papers and presentations from Vienna including the ‘Best in track’ winners are available for download on the seminar website. In the two decades since the seminar first started, 750+ innovative peer-reviewed papers have been submitted, creating one of the most valuable and widely-used records of ATM research.