A new European project conducting test flights of drones in urban environments across the UK, Netherlands and Spain has carried out its first demonstration at Cranfield University.

The AMU-LED flight on 30 June tested the feasibility of urban air mobility management systems, paving the way for more complex trials in the future.

Testing scenarios in urban environments

One of the key enablers for urban air mobility (UAM) is U-space, an air traffic management framework to enable the safe and secure integration of drones, said Cranfield. U-space is a set of specific services and procedures designed to ensure safe and efficient access to airspace for a large number of drones, based on high levels of digitalisation and automation.

Just like the air traffic management system for general aircraft, U-space will ensure that drone operations are carried out safely and efficiently. The system is more automated than current air traffic control, with less human interaction and the capacity to handle more flights simultaneously.

The AMU-LED project is a Very Large-scale Demonstration (VLD) project funded by the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. AMU-LED will demonstrate the safe integration of manned and unmanned aircraft through U-space.

In a series of demonstrations, the project will use large electrical Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) platforms for passenger and cargo transport, combined with smaller Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) performing delivery of goods and medical supplies, surveillance or support for emergency services.

Highways in the skies

Gokhan Inalhan, Professor of Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence, is leading Cranfield University’s involvement in the project. He said: “The flight demonstrations will put into practice scenarios, concepts and systems developed throughout the project to test how drones and manned aircraft can operate safely in the same airspace.

“At Cranfield, we will be running virtual flights alongside the drones physically flying at the airport, to test their interactions and air traffic management systems including U-Space. Our results will help inform the later demonstrations and move forward the whole concept of Urban Air Mobility.

“This is a very exciting project and one that will pave the way for highways in the skies, removing traffic and congestion and changing the way we move around.”

Photo credit: AMU-LED consortium

Subscribe to the FINN weekly newsletter