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M3 Systems, Pipistrel and Volocopter complete air traffic tests in France

September 29, 2022  - By

The flight test is the third of several to simulate a variety of real-world scenarios that demonstrate how UTM and ATM intersect with multiple aircraft types.

M3 Systems, Pipistrel and Volocopter have completed their first joint flight test campaign in France at Pontoise airfield.

The week-long flight tests simulated three different avoidance maneuvers in real-world situations where unforeseen circumstances occur, such as a complete airport or vertiport closure, an unavailable final approach and takeoff area, and traffic deconfliction.

M3 Systems was created from engineering activities in GNSS and consulting activities in air traffic management (ATM), including for uncrewed aircraft. M3 played a role in Galileo signal definition, among other projects for Europe’s various space agencies. Pipstrel is a light aircraft manufacturer specializing in electric propulsion, and Volocopter specializes in urban air mobility (UAM) systems.

The joint campaign among the three companies — with French partners Groupe ADP and its subsidiary Hologarde — aimed to achieve smooth interaction within and between the new lower airspace’s unmanned traffic management (UTM) and standard civil aviation ATM systems.

The Boreal system is a fixed-wing UAV with high-endurance and heavy payload capacity. (Photo: M3 Systems)

The Boreal system is a fixed-wing UAV with high-endurance and heavy payload capacity. (Photo: M3 Systems)

The aviation industry is experiencing an innovation upsurge driven by technology and societal pressure for new forms of aviation focused on sustainable, digital and autonomous air mobility. The resulting solutions will generate a significant increase in traffic density in the lower airspace.

Because existing ATM systems are not designed to handle such volumes or digitalization, coordinating existing and new traffic management systems for brand-new aircraft integration will ensure efficient large-scale operations. This includes commercial, general and drone aircraft for cargo and passenger flights, both crewed and uncrewed.

The CORUS-XUAM project, funded by the European Union’s initiative Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking, focuses on solving the challenge of conventional and new traffic management system integration and consists of 19 partners and 11 third parties. M3 Systems, Pipistrel and Volocopter all completed individual flight-test campaigns before this event to bring their aircraft in line with the U-space services.

A week of flight tests ended with an Open Day air show and presentations. (Photo: M3 Mobility)

A week of flight tests ended with an Open Day air show and presentations. (Photo: M3 Mobility)

The CORUS-XUAM flight test conducted at Pontoise airfield near Paris is the third of several flight tests to simulate a variety of real-world scenarios that demonstrate how UTM and ATM intersect with multiple aircraft types.

Moreover, the CORUS-XUAM project will continue to proactively test and create a safe and controlled lower airspace under the European Union’s ambitious Single European Sky (SES) initiative throughout 2022.

The successful flight tests at Pontoise airfield were conducted with M3 System’s Boreal remotely piloted aircraft system, Pipistrel’s crewed Velis Electro, the only type-certified electric aircraft in commercial service in the world, and Volocopter’s fullscale, remotely piloted 2X prototype. Pipistrel uses the conventional ATM tower and system while Volocopter and M3 Systems use the UTM system. The following three flight scenarios were tested:

  • The unexpected occupancy of a final-approach-and-takeoff plan and aircraft diversion because of priority landing of another aircraft (Pipistrel and Volocopter aircraft).
  • The diversion of a flight path because of the closure of an airport or vertiport (M3 Systems).
  • The diversion of a flight path with two aircraft flying the same path (M3 Systems and Volocopter aircraft).

“These successful tests confirm that our Boreal UAS will be an enabler for future XUAM operations in situations where aircraft need to safely divert paths to another vertiport due to an unforeseen closure or another aircraft in the air,” explained Marc Pollina, M3 Systems CEO. “By providing rerouting demonstrations and tactical communications with U-Space service providers, M3 Systems can support future coordination between AAM and airport operators.”

Pipistrel is “As the manufacturer of the only type-certified electric aircraft in commercial service in the world, proud to take part in technical projects that shape the vision of air mobility and make progress in a meaningful way,” said Gabriel Massey, Pipistrel president. “The CORUS project and Paris demonstrations clearly show how UAM vehicles will be able to fly safely in regular airspace post-2030 and will help to unlock new lower-noise and lower-emission air passenger and air cargo services.”

In 2019, Volocopter tested its 2X ATM integration at Helsinki airport and was actively involved in the development of the European U-Space Concept of Operations, according to Oliver Reinhardt, Volocopter’s chief risk and certification officer. “Building an efficient ecosystem around UAM is Volocopter’s mission, and connecting ATM/UTM integration with our digital platform, VoloIQ, is poised to be an integral part of bringing UAM to megacities worldwide,” Reinhardt said. “I am looking forward to the next CORUS-XUAM test flights later this year in Germany and what we can achieve there.”

The project has received funding from the SESAR Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 101017682.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.