Urban aviation on the doorstep

According to the head of Airbus Helicopters, the company has reached the moment when it has gained enough experience to build and launch a completely new type of aircraft, but there may still be difficulties with regulatory certification. According to Bruno Even, CEO of Airbus Helicopters, the company’s CityAirbus technology demonstrator has already made significant progress in the development of urban aircraft (UAM) and has also paved the way for the official certification of all-new aircraft. A series of test flights were carried out last year with four plus one-seater aircraft, and extensive tests were carried out with the single-seater demonstrator Vahana until 2019, thanks to which a wealth of data and experience on vehicle flight characteristics is already available. According to Bruno Even, the time has come to design and certify a commercial urban aircraft, the latter being the main challenge in this segment.

The fact that these electric vehicles, typically designed to carry 1 to 6 people, are very diverse and do not have the same schemes and constraints as conventional airplanes or helicopters can be a major headache for the authorities. For further data collection, the manufacturer’s experts will further test CityAirbus this year, although preliminary results were already exceeded in 2020. In addition, a new control system specifically designed for UAM vehicles is already being developed and will soon be tested with the help of Flightlab, which will “make flying more intuitive and simple”.

The next key issue is the minimization of noise emissions, which should be emphasized throughout the development. According to Airbus, this is one of the keys to getting these new types of transport widely accepted not only by the authorities but also by people and learning to live with them in an urban environment. Separate rules for noise exposure will be needed even if the electric drive is definitely quieter than any conventional source. They are also looking to help develop the standards in the Flightlab project, with a specially redesigned H130 helicopter last year to assess in detail how buildings affect the noise perceived by those on the ground.

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