“Living labs needed to test UAM multi-level governance procedures” – ICAO webinar

By Jenny Beechener

“Sandboxes that focus on proof on concept are not enough. We need to move to a ‘Living Lab’ concept to deploy and realise Unmanned Aerial Mobility (UAM) service experiences tailored to the characteristics of states and local communities,” says Dr Vassilis Agouridas, Leader of UAM Initiative Cities Community (UIC2), EU’s Civitas. This is necessary to develop multi-level, multi-sectorial governance of UAM.

“This is already happening in some cases, for example public consultations regarding city infrastructure development and the involvement of new non-aviation actors. We need many actors to collaborate, coordinate and align in this prototyping phase for governance.”

Dr Agouridas was speaking at the ICAO webinar entitled Multi-level governance of urban air mobility (UAM)’ on 24 August 2023 that discussed integration of eVTOLs within the multi-modal urban mobility schemes, looking at cooperation between the different levels of decision making and more inclusive government models to ensure UAM delivers societal benefit.

UIC2 participates in EU-funded research projects which explore the opportunities and challenges of managing low-level urban airspace. This includes the huge increase in digital interfaces between the air and ground and the need for cross-sectorial regulation.

Head of Airworthiness Department with Brazilian aviation authority ANAC, Roberto J S Honorato said regulators are starting to change their approach “to pursue a balanced approach that provides industry with a framework that allows them to develop technology, while at the same time ensuring the safety of that technology”.

eVTOL operator Volocopter is addressing these challenges as it prepares to launch its first commercial flights in Paris in 2024. “We are in midst of approvals, and we are involving all stakeholders and decision-makers in this process,” explains Barbara Zygula, Volopter Regulatory Affairs Manager. The company is building a “digital brain” which it calls VOLOIQ to support an “intelligent and integrated urban mobility ecosystem” including air and ground operations, passenger functionalities and other applications using an aerospace cloud platform.

Barbara Zygula says ICAO has a role to play in bringing regulators together “to find common solutions to common problems”.  Volocopter experiences the same regulatory challenges in Europe as other regions of the World. “Operators want to operate globally, but there are different parallel developments and different regulatory approaches around the World. It will not be long before we see the first cross-border eVTOL operations.” She warns of the risk that “different approaches will differ too much unless we can solve them as a community”.

Dr Agouridas believes ICAO has an opportunity to “take a bold stance by acknowledging that UAM includes non-aviation actors and to drive a multi-sectorial approach at international level”. This requires ICAO to bring together UAM representatives to align on roadmaps and integrated system governance to address emerging multi-level governance issues in the context of UAM service and operations.

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(Image: Shutterstock)

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