An initial series of drone test flights over cities has been rolled out in Poland as part of an effort to speed preparations for the introduction of urban air mobility (UAM) services and navigation systems across the Europe Union.
The first of those trials are underway in Rzeszów, a city of 200,000 people and home to the Dronehub drone-in-a-box equipment manufacturer. The project is funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 and the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking, which seek to encourage the development of smart and sustainable aviation activities. After Poland, the trial drone flights will take place in the Czech Republic, Great Britain, and Spain as research into safely integrating piloted and autonomous UAM activities within urban environments.
In addition to flight operator Dronehub, the project involves sensor and equipment supplier Honeywell, and navigation and air traffic software partner Altitude Angel. All those companies are members of the Uspace4UAM consortium, which works to accelerate development of operational concepts, regulation, and standards for UAM operation across the EU.
The first phase of the trials in Poland will involve 160 flights in the Rzeszów area by mid-2022. Those will operate under three scenarios of autonomous drones flying public service missions. The first of those will replicate aerial monitoring of accident sites; the second to capture ortho- and photogrammetric photos for public institutions; and third to transport AED defibrillators in life-threatening situations.
“Based on the results of, inter alia, our flights over Rzeszów, guidelines for drone flights will be developed, as drones in the near future will become a common sight over the European cities,” explains Dronehub founder and CEO Vadym Melnyk. “As part of the Uspace4UAM project, flight safety requirements will be developed, as well as regulations and standardization to support the development of drone flights in urban spaces in the EU. The project aims to show the technologies of autonomous drones that can be used in cities to improve safety and help security services to manage emergency situations.”
Once reinforced by data from similar trials in the three other selected countries, the current drone test flights in Poland will be used in the creation of EU-wide regulations and systems required to permit safe operation of UAM craft across Europe in coming years.
“Among other objectives, we will check how drones react to different and rapidly changing weather conditions,” says Jakub Węglarz, a Dronehub manager overseeing the test flight project. “Thanks to these 160 flights we plan to carry out, we will be able to adjust both hardware and software to the real city conditions and to the needs of public services. Our conclusions and recommendations will be used to help smooth urban air mobility deployment in Europe.”
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