On 24 May 2023, a strategic session took flight at the ITS Congress in Lisbon, hosted by Flying Forward 2020, AiRMOUR, and AURORA. The focus? Drones and their place in our future traffic management system. The session was moderated by Renske Martijnse-Hartikka, a seasoned leader of several European-funded Urban Air Mobility (UAM) projects, such as AiRMOUR and CITYAM.
The discussion took a deep dive into various use cases, showcasing the potential of drones in our traffic management system. Lisa van der Heijden provided real-world examples from the Netherlands, where High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, as part of FF2020, and the Port of Rotterdam, are leading the way. The public's growing awareness of drone applications, from emergency medical deliveries to surveillance and monitoring, was also highlighted.
Silvio Semanjski from SEAL Aeronautica and project lead of the AURORA project brought a new perspective to the table, emphasising the need for autonomous drones. He suggested that these drones could be the key to integrating existing transport modes vertically. However, he also acknowledged the significant technical challenges that come with integrating these technologies into our current Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).
The panel agreed that the question isn't whether drones should be used, but how. How can we ensure their safe and effective use? How can we address security, technological, and semantic considerations? The public voiced two main concerns:
The audience, a diverse mix of industry companies, authorities, and manufacturers, enriched the discussion. Petri Mononen from VTT and project lead of the AiRMOUR project highlighted the need for further research and the lack of funding opportunities at the European level for UAM research.
In conclusion, the session was a valuable platform for sharing experiences and insights. While the questions raised by the public require further exploration, we are hopeful that international authorities will provide answers soon. As these three European-funded projects conclude this year, we eagerly anticipate drones becoming an even more prominent topic on the ITS agenda next year.