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Technology / Emerging Technology

Airbus Teams Up with Regulators to Talk Urban Drone Deliveries

Airbus has teamed up with European and Singaporean airspace regulators to exchange technical detail on how to best operate drones in busy cities.

The collaboration comes as Airbus trials drone-powered deliveries in Singapore with its Skyways drone – which is capable of transporting 4kg parcels.

It will see aerospace multinational Airbus, The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) work together to exchange data and draft a framework for regulatory standards.

Kevin Shum, CAAS’s director general, said: “This tripartite partnership is timely as we seek to better define the operating conditions for the growing number of beneficial uses of UAS [unmanned aerial systems] in urban environments such as Singapore, with aviation and public safety in mind.”

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The Skyways drone, which is being used experimentally at the University of Singapore, is a fully autonomous octocopter that flies parcels in containers located on its underside along aerial corridors to-and-from docking stations, where it is automatically loaded or unloaded.

These “parcel stations” store the delivered parcels in lockers; customers are alerted by smartphone when the package arrives.

Broader roll out would need close collaboration with regulators.

As the company’s Harini Kulatunga, Head of Future Solutions for Unmanned Aerial Systems, explained in an earlier post by the company: “There are a number of challenges to overcome: they have to be able to talk to each other, react to changes in weather conditions and recognise no-fly zones such as airports. We hope to partner with start-ups and key technology companies to realise this vision within the next two years.”


Shaping the Future of Transport

As part of the agreement they will also develop and host educational events for the public and industry ranging from workshops to seminars.

Acknowledging the impact UAS could have on cityscapes around the world Mr Patrick Ky, Executive Director at EASA said in the release: “Unmanned Aircraft Systems used in urban environments will shape the future of public transport.”

“We could not find better partners than CAAS and Airbus to develop safety standards for this growing and fascinating technological development,” he added.

Still a Way to Go…

Last February Airbus’s unmanned air vehicle completed its first flight demonstration at the National University of Singapore.

The drone began in a designated maintenance centre and was automatically fitted with a parcel by a robotic arm.

Once loaded the drone took off, flew and then landed. Upon landing the aircraft demonstrated its automatic unloading feature.

The aircraft is capable of transporting parcels weighing between 2kg and 4kg, this weighted is expected to go up as the technology refines itself.

Commenting on the demonstration Alex Tan Chief Information Officer for SingPost, an e commerce logistics solutions organisations said that: “The urban logistics challenge is complex and an ecosystem of parcel lockers and autonomous vehicles will be a key piece to solving this puzzle.”

Mr Jean-Brice Dumont, Executive Vice President, Engineering at Airbus said in the release that:

“Airbus has been growing our focus on autonomous air mobility, and this tripartite collaboration is a positive move to shape up the safety regulations of UAS in city environments, turning urban air mobility into a business reality for us.”

Alain Flourens, Airbus’ Helicopters’ VP of Engineering talking on the future of transport in the urban environment said that:  “Safe and reliable urban air delivery is a reality not too distant into the future, and Airbus is certainly excited to be a forerunner in this endeavour.”

This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.

CBR Staff Writer

CBR Online legacy content.