SUMPs: The persisting challenges and increasing need for action and solutions
Nathy Ercol

29 March 2023

Industry news
FF2020 at ADW 2023

The Cities & Regions stage at Amsterdam Drone Week 2023 gathered important city representatives, decision-makers, organisations, projects, initiatives and networks to discuss how they are planning for the third dimension of urban transport – the air.

One of the central points of the SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan) methodology is the quality of public space, making space management essential to maintaining and improving its quality. For Urban Air Mobility, space management is paramount for its safe, efficient, and sustainable integration. It enables cities to identify suitable locations for infrastructure, integrate with existing urban transport systems, and increase social and environmental benefits while mitigating risks and concerns.

However, cities are still facing persisting SUMP challenges concerning design, planning and development, specifically with regard to infrastructure, sustainability, and public spaces.

Some of the biggest challenges include the following:

  • Allocating airspace for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) while avoiding public disturbance
  • Establishing a clear regulatory framework and policies for UAS operations
  • Creating business cases by matching supply and demand in order to assess the necessity from a societal and business perspective and to establish the added and economic value to each city and region based on their individual needs and requirements
  • Establishing effective communication between automated vehicles, the digital and physical infrastructures
  • Bridging the digital divide between public and private sectors in regard to skills and capabilities
  • Contributing to cities' sustainability efforts and goals through Urban Air Mobility, again, based on their individual needs and requirements. But how, when there is limited research to help answer this question?

Cities and regions are preparing for a future of uncrewed air transport and travel. To make this a reality, a very complex process must be completed that requires the involvement of the public and private sectors, with collaboration among governments, industry and communities.

So, what do cities need to overcome these challenges? For one, co-creation and co-management of spaces will help to engage stakeholders and bolster collaboration to accelerate the implementation of SUMPS. There is also a clear need for governance, interoperability and standardisation, digital twin, anti-UAS, and increased support from city officials, and alignment between various administrative bodies will undoubtedly help to move in the right direction.

Beyond the approach and the requirements to integrate UAM, cities and regions need an action plan for deployment and addressing safety, societal, and environmental concerns. A clear roadmap will help cities ensure that Urban Air Mobility is deployed in a safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible way that benefits the community. Technology and expertise from Flying Forward 2020 (FF2020) and other EU-funded projects will be crucial for helping cities create an action plan by sharing best practices and solutions that have been tested in real-world scenarios with cities and other stakeholders.

To this end, initiatives such as EIT Urban Mobility, UIC2 and other European associations will keep playing an important role in supporting the implementation of Urban Air Mobility in Europe. By promoting innovation, education and training, stakeholder engagement, and demonstration and validation, they will help to accelerate the transition towards sustainable urban mobility systems in cities and regions. Perhaps, in the near future, this strategy will include more definitive steps towards UAM.

View the Amsterdam Drone Week 2023 gallery.

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