The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Work Starts on Canada's Air Traffic Management Network for Advanced Air Mobility

The Canadian Advanced Air Mobility Consortium (CAAM) has contracted D3 Technologies to define and implement air traffic management infrastructure to support operations by eVTOL aircraft and drones in Canadian cities. The German air traffic control specialist intends to apply its automation and data communications technology to modernize airspace use, starting in Vancouver.

Munich-based D3 says its approach involves the creation of “digital roads” that aircraft can fly along. It believes that this will provide the safety needed to get clearance for a scaling up of advanced air mobility (AAM) operations in metropolitan areas.

According to chief commercial officer Achim Kostron, D3’s work with CAAM is a revenue-generating project that “will demonstrate a proof of concept to regulators such as Nav Canada and unlock future use cases.” CAAM is aiming to produce an AAM master plan covering the first 20 years of the new mode of air transportation.

In a wider effort initiated by CAAM’s subsidiary Canadian Air Mobility and the National Research Council of Canada, more than 20 partners, including aviation ventures, government agencies, and universities, are laying the groundwork for the expansion of AAM services across the country. CAAM’s long-term goal is to promote zero-emission transportation in urban and rural communities for people, goods, and services.

The company claims its ATM concept is unique in consisting of an integrated air-ground system that automatically lets aircraft fly their preferred routes. The airborne component will allow the air vehicle to stay on its assigned route and will automatically receive updates from the ground on other air traffic, airspace availability, and obstacles to ensure conflict-free trips.

“A scalable air traffic control solution will be essential for governments to benefit from AAM,” said CAAM executive director JR Hammond. “We are looking for the air traffic control solution that has the highest probability of applying to an effective national framework.”

In 2020, D3 raised €2.9 million ($3.5 million) in a Seed II funding round, and it may seek further investment later this year. The company is preparing to start a pilot application for its proposed system this summer by equipping one or two airports in the Munich area and operating trials with test vehicles. It intends to conducted a larger-scale system demonstration in 2022 or 2023 with a vehicle manufacturer

Those trials will likely start with a fairly large drone but may also use an existing light aircraft. The integrated ATM package consists of a ground station, communications equipment, and onboard avionics.

In an interview last year, D3 CEO Corvin Huber told FutureFlight he expects to be ready to expand the pilot application to a larger area by 2022. The company anticipates that commercial passenger-carrying operations by eVTOL aircraft will start in 2024 and says it can be ready to support these.

The D3 leadership team, under the direction of Huber as CEO and chief technology officer, has extensive aviation experience. Huber previously ran German aircraft manufacturers Extra, Remos, and Econoflug. The company’s head of air traffic control is Ralph Schuppenhauer, who was program manager for next-generation air traffic management with German ATC agency Deutsche Flugsicherung, and its head of avionics is Otto Bommer, who was formerly program manager for the Airbus 400M aircraft’s mission management computer.