Volocopter has completed a two-week flight-test campaign as part of Europe’s CORUS-XUAM project to establish how so-called U-Space infrastructure for uncrewed aircraft could be used to support urban air mobility (UAM) flights. The German eVTOL aircraft developer deployed its VoloDrone autonomous vehicle for flight trials that concluded this week at the country’s DLR National Experimental Test Centre for Unmanned Aircraft at Magdeburg-Cochstedt Airport.
The tests focused on harmonizing digital interfaces for both air traffic management (ATM) and unmanned traffic management (UTM) to allow new types of aircraft to be safely integrated into public airspace. CORUS-XUAM receives funding as part of the European Union’s SESAR Horizon 2020 program and is coordinated by the Innovation Hub of ATM agency Eurocontrol. The somewhat contrived acronym stands for Concept of Operations for European UTM Systems—Extension for Urban Air Mobility.
The final day of testing on November 30 featured a public display of deconfliction flights as part of the CORUS-XUAM Very Large Demonstration exercise. This involved remotely piloted and automated sorties in which the VoloDrone simulated flights in and around Frankfurt and London with unforeseen circumstances and obstacles factored in along predetermined flight routes.
The airspace around these major cities and their airports was scaled down accurately and mapped to fit the physical space of Magdeburg-Cochstedt Airport. During the trials, the VoloDrone, which is intended for cargo deliveries, showed how it can yield to higher-priority traffic and change its speed to ease traffic-flow management.
In the German use case, the VoloDrone’s flight path between the Messe Frankfurt convention center and Frankfurt Airport was diverted after Volocopter’s VoloIQ operating system received a message from an aircraft making an emergency medical flight to get a patient to a hospital. Then, in a simulation around London airspace, the VoloDrone decreased its speed to make space for a safe approach into congested airspace around one of the UK capital’s busy airports to maximize the efficiency of traffic flow.
In both cases, the digital interfaces of VoloIQ and the assigned U-Space service provider worked together to manage the VoloDrone’s flight path and speed, as well as assign airspace priorities. Volocopter intends to use VoloIQ to manage all aspects of commercial eVTOL operations, including air taxi flights with its two-seat VoloCity aircraft.
“Our team has proven throughout these tests that our aircraft, operations, and digital software can safely adapt to various test-flight scenarios,” commented Oliver Reinhardt, Volocopter’s chief risk and certification officer. “To ultimately establish a robust UAM ecosystem, we will continue to test and improve the ATM/UTM interfaces beyond the testing sandbox, as well as improve communications with individual partners within each country’s ecosystem.”
The trials followed a similar exercise that Volocopter conducted in September at Pontoise airfield near Paris. This is part of a wider CORUS-XUAM exercise being conducted elsewhere in Europe, including Spain.
Volocopter aims to have the VoloCity ready to start commercial operations in cities including Paris and Singapore by 2024, for short flights of up to around 22 miles. The company is also developing a four-seat eVTOL model called the VoloConnect that will have a range of 60 miles.