Group to explore drone traffic opportunities in EU cities

We know the people of the United Kingdom opted to leave the European Union community and go it alone as an economic entity in Europe – and this was probably one of the reasons why they formed a British consortium that would usher in a new era of unmanned air mobility (UAM) in UK cities starting next summer.

Because in the EU itself, there is also another consortium that was set up to explore how cities in Europe can manage their autonomous air traffic, in the face of the rising importance of commercial drones in the world.

Known as the Flying Forward 2020 (FF2020), the group comprises public and private organisations, universities, and other experts such as Digie, EUROUSC Italia, Nalantis, Serendipity, University of Maastricht and VERSES.

“Flying Forward 2020 is a three-year collaborative research project that will develop a new Urban Air Mobility (UAM) ecosystem aligned with the Digital Government Transformation (DGT) of countries in Europe that focus on incorporating Urban Air Mobility within the spatial data infrastructure of cities,” the consortium says. “Building and incorporating all related data from UAM infrastructures and operations within the digital infrastructure of cities will allow helping society to fly forward in a safe, secure and effective way to make life easier, cheaper and provide more opportunities by getting products faster and more efficiently within cities in Europe.”

Their support partners include the European Space Agency (ESA), semi-conductor manufacturer NXP; Dutch industrial manufacturing company VDL; Microsoft and Nokia and LUMO Labs.

Eindhoven-based High Tech Campus Eindhoven (HTCE) will be one of the living labs to spearhead the roll out of autonomous digital infrastructure, and they in turn have chosen sustainable smart cities solutions provider serendipity as their technology partner for the role.

“With the rise of drone use, flying taxis and autonomous last-mile delivery, we need to prepare ourselves for the future,” says Jan-Willem Neggers, HTCE Managing Director.

The consortium says its overall goal is not only to achieve its dreams, but to do so in collaboration with all kinds of players globally to take UAM to the next level.

“As we will test our solutions in Living Labs we are able to frequently interact with its end-users and citizens in general.”

Tragic as it may have been to humanity, thanks to a global pandemic that is so far refusing to go away, 2020 has been a year of significant strides for drone technology, especially in the delivery space. Human movement restrictions saw governments and other institutions turning to drones for the delivery of emergency medical supplies in record times; which then lead to research on how drones would fare when tried on a large scale in parcel delivery.

Organisations like EHang, Amazon, UPS, Alphabet and Walmart took the mantle, and return encouraging levels of success. The challenge now comes on how to integrate drone traffic into urban air spaces, thus putting the work of FF2020 and their UK counterparts in sharp spotlight in the coming year.

At least in Africa we now have the Wakanda Beyond Challenge in place to kickstart our own march towards autonomous aviation innovation, where Endeva gathered long serving drone industry players in Africa and technology partners to come up with drone-based solutions to various problems.


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