Drones

UAM at Paris Olympics – DRONELIFE

© Volocopter

The program at Amsterdam Drone Week is all about uban air mobility (UAM) and eVTOL – with a global focus on the opportunities and the challenges.  With many of the discussions still at a high level, there is one event that will bring it all down to earth, so to speak.  Volocopter has committed to a working demonstration of UAM at the Paris Olympics, taking place this summer.

A panel led by Munish Khurana, Senior Manager of ATM/UTM at Eurocontrol discussed how all of the parts of the project will come together in just a few months.

The Players: an Exchange Between Regulators and Providers

One of the major challenges of putting together any “first in the world” project is bringing all of the stakeholders together – establishing a new ecosystem for operation.  That’s been one of the major success stories of the project to bring UAM to the Paris Olympics: something that all of the panelists said has helped them to move forward.  Oliver Reihnart of Volocopter says the partnership and cooperation have been critical: “We have a very close exchange that has enabled us to make these things happen.  We’ve been talking about these things in theory and now as we get close to bringing it to reality, we’re continuing to address challenges as they come up.”

Solene le Bris is the AAM Project Lead at ADP, a leading provider of infrastructure, including the Paris airports.  ADP is the project lead for the program, which started in 2019.  Working closely with the Parisian government, the French Civil Aviation Authority, Volocopter and EASA, they’ve put together the plan.

Oliver Reinhart is the Chief Risk and Certification Officer for Volocopter, the company providing the aircraft.  Reinhart comments that the aircraft alone isn’t enough – it needs the infrastructure of vertiports, charging, and regulations to work.  The VoloCity expects to be the first EASA-certified eVTOL for commercial operations.

Thierry Allain is the Innovation Program Manager at DGAC, the French civil air authority.  As a regulator, Allain says that their role is not only to regulate but to learn, in order to support innovation – and the Paris Olympics project has allowed them to learn first hand how next generation aircraft will operate and integrate with existing air traffic.

Maria Algar Ruiz is the Drone Programme Manager at EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.  They’ve helped develop a regulatory concept for how these operations can take place – and while these will be published soon, Maria says that regulations will continue to evolve as the operations take place and regulators continue to gather data and technology advances.

The Project: From Experimental Site to 5 Working Vertiports

The project has been a multi-year process.  ADP developed an experimental system specifically for testing eVTOL, located in an existing aerodome 35 km outside of Paris.  This test area allowed the group to test the vehicle and gather specific data, which they then released to the public as part of a campaign to gain public acceptance.  This included addressing issues like noise: being able to validate claims that the eVTOL is 5x quieter than helicopters, for example, has been helpful in communicating with residents.

In 2022, they placed the first integrated vertiport at the Pontoise testbed.  The vertiport, which is developed by Skyports, allowed the group to test all aspects of operations: the passenger experience, energy and charging infrastructure, eVTOL integration into traffic, and more.

For the Olympics, Paris is constructing 5 vertiports that will be up and running by the summer- 4 of which will be located within existing airports, heliports and aerodomes.  The 5th vertiport will be the first operational vertiport in the world operating in a dense urban area, in the center of Paris.  This vertiport will actually be located on a boat moored in the river Seine.

From a regulatory standpoint, Thierry Allain says that the DGAC chose an option that would limit complexity for the project.  The UAM project will utilize existing helicopter routes that have already been validated, ensuring separation in vertical space by altitude and also digitally in air traffic control systems, so that helicopters and eVTOLs maintain separation as they approach heliports and vertiports.

What Happens After the Olympics?

The team hopes that the UAM project will continue to bear fruit after the Olympics.  For Volocopter, they hope to move smoothly to commercial operations after receiving EASA certification.  For ADP, they’ve been able to leverage the work to test different use cases, including the use of eVTOL for emergency management systems (EMS).  They will begin simulation testing for EMS after the summer.

“This project is a way to help bring the public along on AAM,” says Munish.

“The world is looking at what is happening in Paris right now,” says Oliver.  “…The whole industry can benefit from it.”

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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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