Drones and Tomorrow's Airspace

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This project aims to develop regulatory frameworks and airspace management practices, which empower society to make better use of airspace. It also seeks to enable safe, clean and inclusive use of drones for delivery, mobility and aerial data capture.

Deliverables include:

  • Defining a future for civil drones that maximizes the benefits to society and mitigates risk

  • Determining the regulatory environment needed to achieve this future

  • Identifying the air traffic management infrastructure required for drone innovation

  • Creating a network of pilot projects to demonstrate best practices

Key areas of project focus include:

  • Drone delivery and logistics: Medicins San Frontieres undertook the first significant drone delivery pilot in 2014 transporting blood samples for TB testing between rural clinics and centralized test facilities in Papua New Guinea. Since, there have been a number of other health-oriented delivery programs in emerging economies and recent pilots in developed economies, often by package and mail carriers. However, most countries have policies that restrict the operations needed to make this use case economical such as flying beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) and over people

  • eVTOL taxis and personal transport: 2017 marked the entry of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles into the broader public consciousness as a viable means of transportation with announcements from large companies such as Airbus and Uber as well as numerous startups. This is an area where the enabling technology, fundamental value proposition, and policy are still in very early phases of development and where there is a significant opportunity to shape the global understanding of the potential benefits these systems and policies need to unlock those benefits

  • Aerial imagery: Using drones to carry sensors for imagery and data collection is the most well established application set for drones. However, workflows and business models are still evolving as companies and governments seek to scale up their use of drones in this area. Policies restricting BVLOS flight and fully pilotless automated operations remain significant barriers to innovation and adoption in this space.

  • Enabling infrastructure: Scaling up our use of airspace to enable millions of craft to fly safely and simultaneously will require a new type of airspace control infrastructure. A much greater variety of aircraft morphologies that may take off and land much closer to people than has ever been done before will also require new kinds of physical infrastructure. The steering group will investigate what infrastructure protocols, standards, and investments will be needed to fully enable all the use cases listed above.