A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Airbus and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) on Wednesday, February 12.
This MOU seeks to allow for urban air mobility (UAM) in Singapore.
The ceremony, which took place at the Singapore Airshow 2020, saw the memorandum signed by Jean-Brice Dumont, executive vice-president of engineering at Airbus and CAAS director-general Kevin Shum.
This partnership seeks to achieve several outcomes. It looks to establish UAM services and platforms to boost industry productivity and Singapore’s regional connectivity. Both organisations will work together to create an initial UAM service with an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). In particular, the creation of an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system and services to achieve the aims of this MOU.
The response and acceptance by the public of UAM operations, the development of standards, and the establishment of necessary safety frameworks are other areas which will also be fostered on.
Feasibility and requirements for more UAM services, such as leading-edge cargo and passenger transportation solutions, will also be studied on.
Airbus and CAAS have seen previous partnerships as well, such as the development of UAS proof-of-concept (POC) trials for an experimental project, known as Skyways, back in 2016. This project aims to develop safe unmanned air delivery systems for deployment in dense urban environments.
Both organisations had also signed an agreement with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, to share and advance the development of operational and safety standards for UAS in urban environments.
Mr Shum shared that the venture into UAM is also a part of Singapore’s Smart Nation goal, that is to use technology to solve problems and overcome challenges. CAAS looks to partner with businesses like Airbus to raise the limits for technology applications.
“Such collaborations, including our long-standing CAAS-Airbus partnership, build Singapore’s capabilities and expertise to enable advanced UA (unmanned aircraft) applications, particularly in our urban environment,” he said.
Mr Dumont shared that Airbus is always looking for new ways to explore new heights in air mobility. This partnership sees a “shared vision of developing urban air mobility and supporting UTM systems and services to bring about a safe and reliable transportation solution to people”.
Singapore has previously seen several projects for propelling the digitalisation and technology-advancement in the related aviation/air transport industry.
Research lab partnerships in aviation
In 2019, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Rolls-Royce had invested a further S$88 million dollars into the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Laboratory, a research partnership between the two organisations.
This research lab was jointly set up with the National Research Foundation (NRF) in 2013. It has gone through five years of partnership and is now being renewed with this investment.
The renewal of this partnership will see the lab working on 29 new projects which are to commence on a big scale. These projects will be focused on creating new technologies that will be used in moving aircraft propulsion forward. The aim of them is to create technologies that are eco-friendly, efficient, and sustainable.
These projects will employ the use of Industry 4.0 technologies:
- Connecting computers
- Machines and engines
- Generating valuable data which will enhance design, manufacturing, maintenance, services, and operations
A German company, Volocopter, had put Singapore as one of its ideal locations for the commercial launch of electric helicopters (air taxis). It was working with regulators in Singapore to perform a public test flight.
It also plans of launching the air taxis for commercial use in the next two to three years. The firm intends to provide its air taxi services for the price of a limousine ride.
Volocopter’s air taxis are designed akin to a drone with functions like a small helicopter powered by 18 rotors.
The first commercial air taxis will still require a pilot and hence can only carry one passenger at the moment. There are plans for pushing the innovation such that it can become a fully autonomous air taxi.