The Civil UAVs Initiative Theatre kicked off
yesterday, highlighting the rapidly evolving drone industry, urban mobility,
and autonomous cargo delivery.
Jorge Azcón, Mayor of Zaragoza, the fifth most
populous city in Spain, and Vassilis Agouridas, Senior Manager of Strategic
Innovation at Airbus, discussed how cities are preparing to react to and
embrace new mobility opportunities.
Azcón considered that “the impact of the drones on cities will be
similar to the one cars had in 1903. Drones will change cities.”
“Zaragoza, my city, is open to innovation,” he continued. “We are
already using drones in crowds, green areas and [for] pest control”. Azcón
noted that Zaragoza is one of the twelve European cities taking part in Flying
Forward 2020 project. In addition, the Mayor of Zaragoza talked about HERA
DroneHub, the first European urban airspace where drones can fly and be
When integrating drones, urban traffic goes into "a third
dimension," Vassilis Agouridas noted, which will result in new security
requirements. He highlighted the concept of MaaS, Mobility as a Service, a key
idea contained in the manifesto for the multi-governance of European cities.
The Civil UAVs Initiative Theater then hosted
the panel, “UAM for Cargo and Passengers,” during which the logistics of urban
mobility and increasing drone operations were tackled in depth.
Miguel Colom, CEO of Atlantic Singular
Aircrafts, pointed out that the use of drones for cargo must reach a
straightforward yet complex goal: achieve the lowest possible cost. “It makes
no sense to compete with cargo trucks, trains, or airplanes that can transport
tons of goods without obstacles. Our market is lighter cargo, in difficult
access areas or those without infrastructure,” he explained.
For this purpose, Atlantic Singular Aircrafts
developed the FLYOX I, the largest amphibious drone in the world. It weighs
1,850 kg and has a capacity of up to 4,000 kg of cargo. The FLYOX I "can
easily access markets such as the Northwest of Africa, with 40% of the world's
fishing distribution, located only a few miles from Europe. Or [aid in] the
transport of goods in Central Africa in high-risk areas without proper roads.”
Carlos Poveda, CEO of UMILES - the main sponsor
of the Expodrónica Pavilion - highlighted that "we are not only building a
new airspace but a new era of mobility." UMILES, an aviation and drone
company group, introduced the first air taxi with 100% Spanish-designed
technology: UMILES New Concept by Tecnalia.
Poveda highlighted that the business
alliance with Tecnalia, a leading technological research and development centre
in Europe, has made it possible to develop the “definitive drone," an
aircraft designed for passenger transport in urban environments, with a flight
range of 15 km and 15 minutes, which makes it possible to answer to mobility
problems in the main cities.
"World population is growing
significantly, and it is essential to find new ways of sustainable mobility to
provide a safe and effective response to this challenge," he pointed out.
UMILES will soon participate in three European
projects, collaborating with the main players in the sector, including the
promoters of infrastructure (vertiports) and UAM systems managers.
Passenger transport in unmanned vehicles was also the main topic
of the presentation by Andreas Perroti, CMO in Europe of the Chinese
multinational Ehang. "Cities are saturated, but there
is a huge area we are not using: the sky," he stressed. Ehang presented
the EH216 model, a completely autonomous air taxi that can carry up to two
people, flying autonomously, semi-automatically, or in a remotely-piloted
format. This allows the EH216 to adapt to each country's legislation. “This is
already a reality; it is not a prototype or a science fiction vehicle,” he
Perroti’s challenge is to introduce the air
taxi in an economy of scale that allows to wide-spread drone use in the urban
sky. “Rules will be adapted in five to 10 years. Those who want to be
competitive in the passenger transport sector need to start today, otherwise
they will be late,” he concluded.
State Security Forces and the Spanish Ministry
of Interior joined the next panel about anti-drone security systems.
National Police Inspector Ángel Miguel Siles
explained that “the use of drones is now everywhere, and they move in spaces
where barriers are lower than on the ground. They have a high flying speed.
National Police faces this threat not only with efforts in security, but also
in regulation, training, and technology.”
"We cannot live isolated in a globalised
world, but we must provide safe, effective responses that are aligned with the
pace of this developing sector," he acknowledged.
Captain David Navarro Pérez, an officer at
Civil Coast Guard and Border Service, reminded attendees that “the use of
drones was introduced to the general aviation sector some time ago fighting
against drug dealing. Europol established that aviation faced a series of
threats related to drug smuggling, tax evasion, illegal immigration, and money
laundering, as well as the mobility of criminal organizations.”
Finally, Manuel Izquierdo Colomero, head of the
Global Network of the C-UAS System of the Spanish Home Office, claimed that the
network providing security services to the main state institutions is already
being deployed throughout Spain. The National Soccer League has recently
incorporated innovative anti-drone systems in 42 soccer stadiums and is working
in a regulated and coordinated way with the Home Office to be able to shoot
down a drone. This is a pioneer and benchmark agreement in Europe.