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Air operations, Industry outlook

Accelerating drone technology for a smarter future

April 20, 2022

Cirium, in partnership with a consortium of industry leaders in Advanced Air Mobility and Unmanned Traffic Management, is applying its services and expertise to drive forward the development of eVTOL and drone concepts in the UK.

Tackling climate change and promoting a sustainable yet advanced future is a key focal point for both Cirium and the aviation industry at large. With this in mind, Cirium has invested in a series of product innovations and major research projects to help accelerate the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) markets.

Project – ATOMICUS

Cirium has taken a lead role in this ambitious research and development project which aims to enable the use of commercial cargo drones at airports alongside traditional passenger aircraft. The ATOMICUS (Advanced Traffic Organization and Management of Intelligent Cargo Unmanned Systems) consortium, which is part-funded by a £30 million UK Government awarded grant, is working to expand the application of autonomous drone technology into existing UK infrastructure and airspace, supporting the transportation of items such as medical supplies or aircraft spare parts.

The project partners are Cirium (lead), ANRA Technologies, Connected Places Catapult, Neuron Innovations, Distributed Avionics and Southampton University (SOTON UAV). The project is supported by the Welsh Government, NATS, the Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers (GATCO), and Aerospace Wales. Assured data exchange between the UTM systems and traditional certified ATM will also be explored to help support UK and international efforts at standardization.

Upon completion of the project’s research phase, the first prototypes will be tested around Cardiff and St Athan airports along with other economically viable routes.

By using efficient drones to ensure time-sensitive, high-value goods can be transported across the UK faster than ever before, and with a lower carbon footprint, Cirium is working to model the most optimal routes from both an economic and sustainability perspective.

As part of the ATOMICUS project, Cirium will demonstrate how the UK’s network of 150 under-utilized airfields could be utilized to generate economic growth while simultaneously reducing the number of vehicles on our roads.

Project – Fly2Plan

Completed in Q1 2022, and also part of Innovate UK’s Future Flight Challenge, Cirium supported the Heathrow-led and government backed Fly2Plan project which aimed to optimize safe drone usage at airports, while exploring how Blockchain technology could be utilized to securely exchange data between all stakeholders. The project team, which included experts from SITA, IAG, Altitude Angel, Rockport Software, Cranfield University, Oxford University, Consortiq and IBS; created new insights into how new technologies such as cloud infrastructure and blockchain can leverage aviation data to unlock opportunities more effectively for the use of autonomous advanced vehicles within UK airspace.

Project – SMARTER

Also completed in Q1 2022, Cirium supported the SMARTER project lead by Bath based SME TekTowr which included sensor data expertise from the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). The SMARTER project set out to address some of the emergent challenges around the safe introduction of automated and autonomous systems. It explored and prototyped solutions to manage a more integrated airspace for both manned and unmanned vehicles of various natures and characteristics. The project has focused on a high-fidelity simulation capability which is able to adapt to new airspace rules. It also looked at the application of Reinforcement Learning (RL) within a simulated environment to develop models addressing identified needs on drone collision avoidance and minimum safe distance.

Product – Vehicles, Orders and Economic route viability for eVTOL

Cirium’s tools such as Dashboard, Fleets Analyzer and Diio Mi are also being used by Urban Air Mobility market pioneers to identify and model new markets and quantify opportunities.

Cirium Dashboard

Cirium’s team of journalists and analysts take on the heavy lifting, tracking developments in commercial air transport with a global viewpoint. This helps to identify opportunities with news and analysis of investments in, and orders for, eVTOLs and UAMs by airlines and aircraft lessors around the world. Updated continuously through the day, our coverage spans air finance, MRO, aircraft programs, aerospace, and airline fleet and network strategies.

Cirium Fleets Analyzer

Cirium boasts the most comprehensive fleet tool worldwide, with data on most aircraft down to the tail number. Fleets Analyzer is the tool of choice in the industry, and covers commercial, government and military aircraft around the world, from fixed wing to helicopters. Within seconds, it allows users to deploy a user-friendly database to surface existing operators of particular helicopter types, base location and uncover which aircraft may be ripe for an eVTOL replacement solution. Q2 2022 includes the first addition of a range of eVTOL types to the product.

Cirium Diio Mi

Diio Mi allows users to leverage schedule data to analyze operator’s routes to effectively position new aircraft types on viable routes. It can help to drive insight on where a provider can optimally add more AAM or UTM service and when, in congested urban areas. It also quickly surfaces average fares between origins and destinations to uncover lucrative, underserved potential markets, thereby helping to increase efficiency around route optimization.

Cirium NOTAM and Airspace APIs

Cirium’s experts can provide a full set of enhanced global NOTAMs, with full lifecycle support and geometry, ensuring that NOTAMs are enriched with high-quality aeronautical datasets. This offers unmanned aircraft systems developers (OEMs) and UTM service providers a complete and up-to-date global picture of the airspace, its restrictions, and any relevant events for planning, monitoring and deconfliction use cases.

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