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How is urban air mobility going to emerge in the aviation industry?

The increasing number of manned or unmanned aircraft operating simultaneously within urban areas will require entirely new approaches to air traffic management.

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For this issue’s column, International Airport Review spoke to three aviation authorities to seek advice for how airports should prepare to deal with unmanned aircraft.

Stephen CreamerKaren DeeDavid Gamper
Stephen P. Creamer, Director, ICAO Air Navigation BureauKaren Dee, Chief Executive, Airport Operations AssociationDavid Gamper, Director of Safety, ACI World

Stephen P. Creamer: Networks of small, unmanned aircraft (UA) are often presented as enablers for rapid and reliable urban transportation. They promise significant savings in commute times and substantial cost advantages over traditional ground and air transportation – and some are expected to connect airports to urban and suburban locations.

UA, more commonly referred to as drones, are additionally anticipated to support the growth of e-commerce and other delivery-based business models, as well as to provide many other civil society benefits through various inspection, monitoring, search and rescue and medical logistics activities.

It’s important to recall that urban air mobility activities constitute aviation operations and, as such, they present distinct challenges compared to traditional manned aviation. Drones will need to operate in close proximity to a wide variety of urban obstacles, low-flying helicopters and other traditional manned aviation users.

This increasing number of manned or unmanned aircraft operating simultaneously within urban areas will require entirely new approaches to air traffic management (ATM). ICAO has, therefore, already published a manual on ‘Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) – A Common Framework with Core Principles for Global Harmonization’.

A key prerequisite for safe and efficient urban air mobility – and the linking of urban and airport mobility – will be efficient and effective recognition and separation of all aircraft and obstacles concerned. This requires all related UTM and ATM systems and aircraft to be fully interoperable.

Urban operations will, furthermore, pose serious noise footprint concerns, and security issues will also be of paramount concern, particularly at and around airports. They will be of a very different nature than those we currently mitigate for traditional aircraft and ground transportation services.











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