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Volocopter tests target manned and unmanned co-existence

11th September 2019 - 11:00 GMT | by Beth Stevenson in London

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Urban air taxi pioneer Volocopter has conducted a test flight at Helsinki airport, during which its developmental testbed flew under the remit of both manned and unmanned air traffic control.

Carried out under the EU’s Single European Sky ATM Research initiative that aims to modernise air traffic management (ATM) across the continent, Volocopter participated in the testing in August – directly supporting the project’s Gulf of Finland (GoF) phase, which is serving to showcase how manned ATM and unmanned traffic management (UTM) can facilitate urban air transport.

This was the final leg of the GoF project, and followed other tests that Volocopter had been involved including ground and flight demonstrations in Germany and Finland, incorporating required hardware and software and utilising the aircraft in both manned and unmanned configurations.

Tests were carried out at heights of 50m, and one of the runways was closed at the airport during the trials, a company spokesperson told Shephard. UTM systems it was flown with were provided by AirMap, Altitude Angel and Unifly.

Volocopter had to install two different pieces of hardware for the tests, namely a common aviation transponder for ATC and a separate device from Unifly for position determination and reporting, called BLIP.

‘Rather than physically altering the Volocopter, this trial was meant to ensure the existing UTM solutions are compatible with our systems, and that we can easily integrate with an ATM through using UTM solutions,’ the spokesperson added.

‘This was to show that UAVs and air taxis can be added into existing airspace with new technologies.’

The new technologies are designed to be scalable as more air traffic participants start to fly within the lower tier of the airspace, which traditional ATM systems will struggle to handle.

As a result of this expected influx of aircraft flying in the airspace, ATM is having to adapt, to not only the increase in participants wanting to access it, but also the ramp up of those wanting to fly in a lower tier of airspace, than is typically required.

This trial is the most recent for Volocopter as it hastily progresses with the development of the aircraft while also trying to establish the infrastructure and processes required to open up the airspace to urban air taxi operations, working towards the requirements of EASA’s ‘SC-VTOL category enhanced’ - introduced in July. 

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