Taxis that fly and giant drones that lift people and cargo. Cue the jokes, but the reality is we're finally getting tantalizingly close to our flying cars.
How close? Consider that there's a major testbed in the works and by 2022 we're going to see the largest deployment of air vehicles in urban environments ever. Called Air Mobility Urban - Large Experimental Demonstrations (AMU-LED for short), the project will be the largest undertaking of its kind with a consortium of 17 companies, organizations, and municipalities across the United States and Europe. The project takes final form next year with more than 100 hours of air vehicle test flights over cities in the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK.
Urban Air Mobility is the catch-all phrase for a new kind of air travel and transport, one that combines state of the art propulsion and battery technologies with advances in robotics, machine vision, and AI. The result could be a fundamental rethinking of how we navigate in and around cities.
Companies such as ANRA Technologies, a drone software company, will participate in the project, which is part of the European Union's Horizon 2020, the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever with nearly €80 billion of funding deployed over the past seven years. The European Union has been pushing to harmonize rules pertaining to drones, an effort that will unlock significant commercial potential in the UAV and UAM sectors.
"ANRA Technologies will play a vital role in the AMU-LED project by providing its SmartSkies advanced airspace management and simulation software platforms, says Amit Ganjoo, Founder and CEO. "ANRA's solutions and domain expertise will enable various simulated and live eVTOL operations in multiple large scale scenarios, use cases and applications in Europe and the UK."
Other participants include Airbus, AirHub, Altitude Angel, Boeing Research & Technology-Europe, Fada-Catec, Cranfield University, EHang, Enaire, Gemeente Amsterdam, Ineco, ITG, Jeppesen, NLR, Space53 and Tecnalia.
The showcase is ambitions, with exercises involving different unmanned aerial systems aimed at demonstrating air taxi operations, cargo transport, delivery of goods and medical equipment, inspection of infrastructures, police surveillance, and emergency services support. For many companies, it's a chance to showcase products and tools that could become lynchpins of a new mobility paradigm.
"We have been developing airspace management technology since 2015, continually iterating and updating our software platform to ensure safe, efficient and secure operations for today's Unmanned Aerial Systems and tomorrow's Urban Air Mobility aircraft," says Ganjoo. "Our SmartSkies platform was recently deployed for NASA's Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign and we will build upon that success with AMU-LED to develop robust simulations leading to live flights trials with our eVTOL partners."
The data collected from the tests will help regulatory agencies forge a path ahead to create a framework for unmanned flight in urban areas. Selected venues for the trials were announced in January and include Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Cranfield in the United Kingdom, and Amsterdam and Rotterdam in the Netherlands.