The drone of the future will dominate the urban sky: aerial cab and delivery service

If the most iconic car of the 80’s cinema was the Delorean from “Back to the Future”, that automotive brand has also baptized an ambitious European research project that will test until 2022 in Benidorm (Alicante) the use of drones for both the delivery of goods and the transport of people.

The Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) is one of the eight partners participating in DELOREAN, a GSA (European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency) project coordinated by the Catalan aeronautical company Pildo Labs, according to data accessed by EFE.

This project seeks to lay the foundations for the air transport of the future, with drones as the main protagonists. Its main objective: to contribute to bring to the whole society the use of drones in complex urban environments, such as the transport of people -the so-called air taxis- and the delivery of packages or goods.

The two main pillars of DELOREAN are mobility and urban air delivery -Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and Urban Air Delivery (UAD)-, according to the UPV.

“Combining conventional means of transport with drones is not only feasible, but it is the way to move towards more sustainable and friendly cities; it is the ideal alternative to traffic congestion. Drones will make it possible to transport goods and people quickly, economically, without contact and free of greenhouse gas emissions,” according to Israel Quintanilla, professor of Aerospace Engineering at the UPV and president of the Drone Commission (COSIDANT) of this institution.

The project was awarded by the GSA under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 framework program. The project partners, including the UPV, are working on the development of innovative solutions based on the European navigation system EGNOS that are able to respond to these growing mobility needs of aerial services.

Benidorm, which has tall skyscrapers, offers optimal conditions to emulate the dense urban areas where urban air mobility services are expected to be deployed.

“A network of routes has been defined in what we have called the Galileo Urban Air Mobility Laboratory,” says Santiago Soley, CEO of Pildo Labs.

In his opinion, flight over cities must be based on very robust and resilient systems: “The flights and the data collected during the tests will help demonstrate how Galileo and EGNOS can contribute to this,” as Galileo proposes innovative concepts to mitigate the risks associated with signal interference and satellite occultation.

“The DELOREAN flight tests represent an important milestone in the development of Urban Air Mobility solutions. These flights demonstrate that Galileo and EGNOS contribute substantially to the robust navigation of these new platforms that will open up new possibilities for efficient and sustainable mobility in our cities,” adds Carmen Aguilera, DELOREAN project manager.

For his part, Miguel Angel Vilaplana, head of AirBus in the DELOREAN project, adds that “the urban sky is still unexplored and, as technology advances and regulatory frameworks are developed, delivery services and urban air transport with drones will become a reality that could provide these delivery services not only faster, but cleaner”.

All the partners of this project are working on it, among which is also Correos, “a national reference in the fields of logistics and goods delivery”, add from the UPV.

“Our goal is to make them affordable and effective in any scenario; in short, to open the way for the use of drones in applications that we could not even imagine years ago to become an increasingly closer reality,” concludes Antidio Viguria, head of the project at the Andalusian Foundation for Aerospace Development (FADA-CATEC).

The DELOREAN project, which will run until mid-2022, also involves EUROCONTROL, EC, Bauhaus Luftfahrt EV and GeoNumerics, and is supported by the Spanish Aviation Safety Agency (AESA), the Benidorm City Council and Aeroports de Catalunya.

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