The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Urban Air Mobility Flight Trials Will Be Staged in Toulouse and Bordeaux

The French cities of Bordeaux and Toulouse will host extensive trials for urban air mobility (UAM) operations in the spring and summer of 2022. The TindAIR project, which stands for Tactical INstrumental Deconfliction And in flight Resolution, will be coordinated by French artificial intelligence specialist Innov’ATM on behalf of Eurocontrol’s Single European Sky ATM Research (Sesar) program.

The work focuses primarily on the integration of unmanned aircraft into existing airspace, but it also aims to address the needs of eVTOL aircraft applications such as air taxi services. The project, which was described in a March 25 announcement as “a very large-scale demonstration,” will assess the impact of increasing degrees of autonomous flight, including remote piloting, that are anticipated for aircraft in the UAM sector.

The TindAIR team also consists of companies and research organizations across France, Italy, Spain, and the UK. These include French aerospace research body Onera, Rockwell Collins France, the Institute for Sustainable Society and Innovation (Italy), transportation advisors Pildo Consulting (Spain), vertiport developer and drone operator Skyports (UK), Italian aerospace research institute CIRA, Fundacion Tecnalia Research and Innovation (Spain), autonomous systems designer SkyBirdsView (France), Airbus risk management subsidiary APSYS, and the Aerospace Valley cluster for aviation companies in southwestern France.

The project, which has financial backing from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation fund, is part of the wider Sesar effort to establish the so-called U-space for unmanned air traffic. According to Innov'ATM president Stephane Bascobert, the trials will seek to define a concept of operations for detecting and de-conflicting traffic in a mixed manned and unmanned airspace environment. They will also help the partners to validate how this concept of operations could be viable for multiple aircraft applications.

Tecnalia is providing its single-passenger autonomous eVTOL aircraft for the demonstrations and this will be fitted with some onboard hardware to support the tests. The multicopter aircraft, which has already conducted tethered flights at the company's San Sebastian headquarters in northern Spain, only has a range of nine miles and is expected to be the precursor to a larger four-passenger model with a longer range.

According to Bascobert, other manufacturers are invited to include their vehicles in the demonstration program at their own expense. TindAIR wants to evaluate a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft, including helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

TindAIR will seek to demonstrate anticipated UAM user cases for manned and unmanned vehicles in suburban and urban parts of Bordeaux and Toulouse. “Operational scenarios will address existing urban needs or compelling use cases, from medical emergency transport to a mix of freight and passenger flights, including extreme cases like sector saturation capacity and emergency landing,” explained the group in a press release. “And all of this using aircraft of various types and capacities with varying levels of automation, all sharing the same volume of airspace.”

France's DGAC civil aviation regulator and the city governments of Toulouse and Bordeaux are supporting the initiative. All three bodies are represented on the advisory board for the project.

Meanwhile, on March 26, Tecnalia announced the opening of the new Hera Drone Hub at Zaragoza in Spain. The facility, which is close to an exhibition center and railway station, will be used for testing unmanned aircraft, and also for operational training purposes.