Consortium provides launch pad for Ireland’s advanced air mobility market

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Skyports has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Shannon Group, Future Mobility Campus Ireland and Avtrain  to establish Ireland’s first passenger and cargo vertiport.

Alongside Skyports, Future Mobility Campus Ireland (FCMI), Ireland’s first testbed for future mobility located next to Shannon Airport; Avtrain, Europe’s leading drone training and certification body; and Shannon Group’s International Aviation Services Centre, which supports and promotes one of Ireland’s largest aviation clusters located at Shannon, are all collaborating in the venture.

By joining forces the consortium will work towards launching an operational vertiport at Shannon’s FMCI campus in 2022, encouraging investment in Irelands’ Advanced Aerial Mobility (AAM) industry. The long-term goal is the establishment of Ireland’s first air taxi service and routine beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) drone operations.

The consortium has already begun working towards launching BVLOS proof-of-concept operations as early as September 2021. These flights will demonstrate the viability of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and highlight the benefits that research and investment in AAM will bring to urban and rural areas.

“This partnership provides a launch pad for Ireland’s AAM market,” said Duncan Walker, CEO Skyports. “To be contributing at this early stage demonstrates the criticality of vertiport infrastructure to the success of the industry. Participating alongside a group of such high calibre organisations puts us in a strong position to kick-start the project, providing the perfect mix of expertise to make our AAM plans a reality.”

Meanwhile, Russell Vickers, CEO at Future Mobility Campus Ireland added, “Ireland and this region in particular has a huge potential to shape future research and development of AAM. Development of a vertiport in conjunction with a UAV testing area provides a natural extension to the capabilities of the Future Mobility Campus. The ecosystem continues to grow thanks to the vision and belief of our partners.”

Skyports joins forces with Royal Mail to pioneer drone deliveries to Isles of Scilly

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Royal Mail has teamed up with Skyports, as well as DronePrep, the University of Southampton, Excalibur Healthcare Services, Consortiq Limited and Windracers Limited to provide better connectivity to the Scilly Islands’ remote communities, using autonomous scheduled drone flights.

The Government-funded project will initially focus on helping the fight the pandemic by delivering crucial PPE and testing kits to the islands’ most vulnerable and remote communities.

A large, twin-engine, UK-built UAV from Windracers Limited will be used to carry mail  from the mainland to the islands, and is able to fly in poor weather conditions, including fog, potentially enabling Royal Mail to better serve remote island communities. A smaller Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTO) drone operated by Skyports will then fly parcels between the two islands for delivery to recipients.

The project unites two pioneering companies – Windracers and the drone delivery arm of air mobility company Skyports – for the first time. It will showcase how UAVs of different sizes could be used to complement each other in the future.

Parcels will be flown to the islands’ airport in St. Mary’s by the twin-engine UAV, which can carry up to 100kg worth of mail at a time – equivalent to a typical delivery round. A smaller VTO drone, operated by Skyports, will then be used to transport items to a number of delivery points throughout the islands.

The UAVs will complement existing forms of transport for mail to the Isles of Scilly and if the trial is successful, the technology will be considered by Royal Mail to help identify opportunities to support postmen and postwomen in delivering to very remote areas and addresses across the UK.

The trial will also examine fuel efficiencies that the drones could provide, as part of the company’s continued drive to reduce emissions associated with operations.

“Drone technology has already proven its value as part of a network, bringing essential items such as mail or medical equipment to remote regions. Working with world-class partners such as Royal Mail, our team at Skyports has conducted a number of successful delivery programmes across the UK and beyond. It’s very gratifying to be part of this new project, using cutting-edge technology to connect communities and make a real difference to people’s day to day lives,” said Duncan Walker, CEO at Skyports.

Rising against the drone threat

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With off-the-shelf unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) on the rise, drone incidents are also increasing. And it’s not just airports and critical national infrastructure that are at risk. Commercial facilities, such as arenas and stadiums are also vulnerable to a wide array of security threats, including invasion of privacy, smuggling and industrial espionage.

To counter this threat Rohde and Schwarz’s R&S ARDRONIS Counter-UAV solution provides reliable drone control uplink signal detection and disrupting capabilities, even under challenging signal scenarios. It can be deployed on a variety of platforms to monitor remote control uplink and drone downlink signals and can detect and locate those at an approximate range of typically 1.5km with up to 7km under optimal conditions.

“R&S ARDRONIS combines leading Rohde & Schwarz sensors to form a reliable, high performance solution for, e.g. securing a predefined airspace against drones,” said Götz Mayser, Director of C-UAV Detection and Counter Solutions, Rohde & Schwarz. “Through repeated involvement in protecting high-profile events and high-ranking VIPS, R&S ARDRONIS has proven to be a valuable asset for security services involved and a future-proof solution.”

EHang obtains pilot operation approval of passenger AAV’s

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Guangzhou-based autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) technology platform company, EHang, has obtained the world’s first commercial pilot operation approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to use its EHang 216 passenger-grade AAVs for air logistics purpose.

The approval means that trial air logistics service using the EHang 216 can be carried out to transport cargo between ground and hilltop and between shore and islands at a customer site in Taizhou. The AAV is also intended to be gradually expanded to other sites in China as it accumulates operational data and experience.

Commenting on the approval CAAC Deputy Administrator Li Jian said: “I am pleased to see the fast development that EHang has achieved in China and globally, and that the flight test program of its passenger-grade AAVs were successfully verified by the CAAC to be granted with this approval. It can be a safe and efficient solution to transport cargo.”

According to investment bank Morgan Stanely, the global UAM market size could reach $1.5 trillion by 2040. In addition, air logistics is expected to one of the initial applications for commercialisation.

“This approval is of great significance,” said EHang Founder, Chairman and CEO Hu Huazhi. “For EHang, it enables us to enhance our first-mover advantage and accelerate the commercialisation of AAV technology and air mobility solutions for logistics,” He added that it also “lays a foundation for regulatoors around the world to jointly explore and establish a coordinated, supportive and sustainable regulatory environment. This will benefit the long-term development of the promising Urban Air Mobility (UAM) applications.”