Airbus simulates UTM systems of the future using prototype environment

Airbus has enhanced its simulation environment, built to visualise what the future Unmanned Traffic Management (UTM) airspace will look like. The simulation tool is designed to explore and evaluate concepts, services, and architectures that will serve as critical foundation pieces of a robust and future proof UTM framework.

In the latest update, Airbus reports its prototype is a distributed, service-based system that can simulate everything from the physics of an aircraft to the wide variety of factors that impact flight: like weather, infrastructure, and other nearby vehicles. Layered over this is a component that simulates the UTM system itself: allowing configuration for an almost infinite variety of operator and mission scenarios along with the UTM services that enable those operators to take to the skies.

This simulation framework allows Airbus to get a big picture view of the airspace from the perspective of many different stakeholders: small drone operators, urban air mobility vehicles, commercial air traffic, and air traffic control. The environment provides data at scale: running thousands of test flights representing those stakeholders in the real world is impractical. The prototype, using the Airbus UTM cloud platform, can simulate hundreds of thousands of flight hours in under a day, identifying anomalies and providing reliable and reproducible results.

Sustainable solutions: More specifically, Airbus uses the prototype to develop a set of sustainable and forward-looking safety critical tools and services to support advanced concepts like urban air mobility, wide scale drone delivery in urban areas, or automated flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). The simulation environment allows researchers to explore these advanced concepts in an astoundingly complex future environment: one that may include not only high volumes of traffic, but also new regulatory requirements and policies that have yet to be enacted.

UTM concepts like deconfliction, for example, are complex problems that become even more critical in dense airspace. Simulation can allow researchers to develop and test deconfliction strategies that move beyond pairwise deconfliction and consider the problem of maintaining efficient flight paths while avoiding conflicts from multiple directions at once.

Airbus also uses simulation to explore interoperability, by considering the effects of having many operators and USS stakeholders in the system, each with their own business interests and each attempting to optimize their operations in shared airspace.  Through this understanding, we explore concepts of fairness: What happens when one operator reserves a disproportionately large amount of airspace? How is priority negotiated?

The Airbus UTM tools and simulation environment aim to inform industry standards and gain a global consensus on what the airspace of the future will look like. The company’s publicly-available Drone Volume Estimation tool provides an estimate on the number of drones a region might see in a particular area given economics and other factors, have been used worldwide to inform regulators. Data from the drone volume estimation can be used in the simulator to see exactly how that estimated scenario functions. Tools like the volume estimator describe the “what”: the simulation environment leads to the discovery of “how.”

Additional research papers are available on the airbusutm webite.

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