LOCAL government RESPONSIBILITIES FOR DEVELOPING DRONE/EVTOL ECO-SYSTEMS​

A CIVATAglobal discussion paper

Cities will have a critical role in development of urban air mobility/advanced air mobility (UAM/AAM) and municipal drone industries worldwide.

On 6 July 2021, CIVATAglobal members met to discuss these issues. The following text highlights some early conclusions and further areas for discussion and debate. This paper will be extended in scope and granularity over the coming months and years, with members able to provide further inputs which will help guide the debate on where roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders – inter alia national aviation safety regulators, operators, central and local governments Members debated local authority responsibilities in the following areas:
  1. Deciding when to launch drone/UAM services and identifying priority services
  2. Deciding the sites of drone take-off and landing areas, eVTOL vertiports
  3. Deciding the location of air corridors for drones/eVTOLs to balance flight efficiency and citizen safety
  4. Providing critical and dynamic aeronautical information to the CAA on movements of people and high-altitude platforms (such as cranes)
  5. Liaising with police and security agencies to develop a policy to deal with rogue drone operations
  6. Defining no-go zones for environmental, wildlife and other ground protection issues
  7. Integrating drone/eVTOL flight networks with ground infrastructure
  8. Taking the leading role in the management organisation which develops, manages and operates the drone/eVTOL network
  9. Licensing drone/eVTOL operators and operations
  10. Specifying the UTM service provider and terms of reference
  11. Agreeing the placement of sensors on buildings for drone/eVTOL communications and tracking
  12. Setting out the local rules for defining the operational envelop, the priority of services, the environmental limits in terms of noise and hours of operation

The next version of this paper will be published in December 2021, developed from inputs from members at member meetings and direct inputs into the paper by contacting the editor at [email protected].

Local authorities and their direct responsibilities for developing drone/eVTOL eco-systems

A CIVATAglobal discussion paper

Cities can have a vision for Urban Air Mobility (UAM) – but it will be high-level and will need to be supported by private sector industry programmes and clear investment resources. So the end result is likely to be very different from the vision – in particular, the decision on when to launch the first services, and what these priority services should be, will need to be taken by several stakeholders and not the city alone, unless the city is prepared to commit considerable funds to the programme.

But cities will also have to gain public acceptance for these services, so local authorities will need to understand use cases, match them with the physical locality and then see what is possible.

Public space is a very scarce resource so perhaps we should think about private land as the location for the initial services. Many local authorities will lack the information on how to integrate this new transport mode into existing transport networks so any local government drone/UAM operation will probably take longer to implement than many plans suggest. However, most local planning authorities will have a statutory duty to decide whether a TALO/vertiport programme based on private or public land can go ahead.

This depends on use-cases and how much flexibility there is…for example, many hospitals in London are by the river so once the platform technology has been proved, the location and management of highways in the sky can be developed.  The case, from a demonstration viewpoint, wouldn’t have to have that involved because there is likely to be a high level of public acceptance from the public for medical and emergency drone services. Local authorities should prioritise noise acceptance as a prime issue in developing community acceptance.

One role CIVATA might play is to develop a public/private partnership to develop a detailed roadmap, from a top-down approach. The use case has to be decided before the landing-sites are identified and, because of the complexities of issues such as zoning, the initial TALOs should be located in privately-owned properties/land.

The location of tall cranes and buildings – aeronautical data, in other words, is more of an operational issue than a planning one, so local authority-derived data needs to be coordinated with the police and fire department. Vertiport designs are being developed with the airspace landing and take-off routes already integrated, so these must be developed along current aviation/airspace planning procedures. We can’t treat eVTOLs differently from aircraft flying today, which means integrate into them into the current airspace system where aviation stakeholders already have a clear role. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel; most of the standing operating procedures are in place.

The final arbiter of aeronautical information/NOTAM data is the civil aviation authority – but local authorities are key stakeholders and will need a seat at the table when it comes to developing aeronautical procedures for UAM operations.

Vertiports already have developed material on airspace design. But what data is available to local authorities on airspace structures beyond the approach/take-off paths into vertiports and up to 400ft? There is little or no information on this – or who will decide optimised route structures if there are two vertiports/TALOs with overlapping flight patterns. The city will need to have an early, common operating picture of overlapping coverage and gaps.

The local authority has a primary role in planning multi-modal transport networks – including the potential repurposing of buildings, such as car parks which could be considered as possible vertiport or TALO sites. But it is not yet clear whether this responsibility should be extended to cover the entire UAM/drone eco-system.

However, in long-term planning it will be vital for local authorities to develop high-level, detailed views of how drones/eVTOLs will be integrated within future autonomous vehicle networks, especially how bandwidth communications challenges can be met in the CV-X  (vehicle to everything) domain, The threat is that these networks could easily run out of bandwidth, even in a 5G environment.

Local authorities will have a key role in deciding the location and prioritisation of transmitters and sensors for both land and air future autonomous vehicle operations.

Local authorities will have a key role in deciding the location and prioritisation of transmitters and sensors for both land and air future autonomous vehicle operations.

Ambulance/emergency services should always have priority – but how much priority should they be given for positioning or training flights, non-emergency services

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