Tindair succeeds in bringing drones together in the airspace near Toulouse and Bordeaux

Make an emergency landing of a drone near the Garonne in Blagnac, test the transport of medicine by drone over the Tarn landscape or even have drones of all sizes and helicopters over The Gironde estuary near Bordeaux and then in a land area from an ONERA test site south of Toulouse… Here is an overview of the thirty demonstration flights that have been completed in peri-urban and rural areas since July as part of the Tindair programme.

Behind this acronym (which stands for Tactical Instrumental Deconfliction And in flight Resolution) there is a project carried out for two years by a consortium of 11 laboratories and companies led by Toulouse SME Innov’ATM to test the deployment of drones and flying taxis into airspace on a large scale. Tindair is one of half a dozen projects selected in the second wave of the European research program Sesar, which aims to provide Europe with high-performance air traffic management systems to modernize current systems. Of the four million euros for the project, three million were covered by European grants.

Innov’ATM, pioneer in traffic optimization

Founded in 2014, Innov’ATM had already envisioned software that could better anticipate aircraft arrivals and departures on the airport tarmac. The optimization services of the SME (which counts Aéroports de Paris among its shareholders) are used at Basel-Mulhouse and Nantes airports or by the Aviation Services Department (DSNA). We already had an operational platform and we already provide services to French civil aviation to manage commercial flights. With Tindair, we have adapted these software blocks to the special nature of drone flights », describe Stéphane Bascobert, Chairman of Innov’ATM.

Innov’ATM puts artificial intelligence at the service of the integration of drones in the airspace

Upstream of the demonstration flights, SMV worked with Onera, the public aeronautical research laboratory, which since 2011 has had IESTA (Infrastructure for the evaluation of air transport systems), a computer simulation tool that allows testing different hypotheses about air. traffic by simulating the flight of drones in particular. For example, engineers have been working on virtual protective bubbles around drones that could eventually ensure the delivery of packages, cargo and even the transportation of passengers by drone.

In Toulouse, Onera is working on the flight of drones in urban areas

TINDAIR

Different types of drones were used during the demonstrations (Credit: Tindair)

Onera also provided its Vario helicopter. The Spaniard Tecnalia flew a 600 kg air taxi called U-Miles. The UK’s Skyports has made available its drones, which have already been used by Royal Mail to deliver parcels by drone and which have been used to test the delivery of COVID test samples.

Each drone or helicopter was equipped with one box » developed by the Spanish company PildoLabs which was used to collect aircraft data (especially the aircraft’s geographic position). This information was sent by the 4G network via a secure radio protocol developed by the Toulouse teams from Collins Aerospace to the air traffic control platform.

“On this tool, we have a picture of the air traffic updated every second, which predicts the plane’s trajectory for the next two minutes. In case of risk of collision, an algorithm will be launched to find alternative trajectories to avoid the conflict and will minimize the deviation time caused by this new route”, explains Valentin Courchelle, engineer at Innov’ATM.

tinair

The tool offers several alternative trajectories for drones (Credit: Florine Galéron)

Alternative courses suggested to a supervisor

Alternative routes are offered to a supervisor, a person who will choose the best option for the flight. The order is sent to the drones, which change their flight plan, and is also sent to the helicopter pilots to apply the instruction.

Four types of maneuvers are offered by the software. Diversion, in other words a lateral change of the drone’s trajectory, a change in height, a change in speed or a standby to let another machine pass »continues the engineer.

tinair

A supervisor is responsible for choosing the best alternative solution. (Credit: Tindair)

These demonstrations projected us into the world of tomorrow, where drones will develop freely in dedicated corridors and where we will introduce separation minima, as is the case in manned aviation. For us, the project is a success because there is no one unlawful approach or interference with the minimum separation spaces between aircraft »says Stéphane Bascobert.

Arnaud Rimokh, Deputy Director Drones at Aerospace Valley agrees: This program aims to assure the European Commission of the use of these new aircraft in the airspace by showing with large-scale demonstrations that coexistence is possible. This will be used by the European legislator to define future rules for drone flight.»

In addition to the European issue, the initiative also aimed to show that New Aquitaine and Occitanie can become test areas for the deployment of drones in the same way as the Paris region, which intends to carry out tests during the next Olympics in Paris in 2024. We would like to have that history is also built on our territories because we have large numbers that promote this type of demonstrations”adds Arnaud Rimokh.

ADP wants to welcome flying taxis to Roissy-CDG for the 2024 Olympics

However, there is still a long way to go before we see a large-scale boom in commercial services delivered by drone.

“In the Tindair project, not to generate too big a technological leap, we have developed a system that will provide instructions for resolving airspace use conflicts. But the last word remains with the supervisor. But tomorrow we will not be able to put a supervisor behind one, two, three or five drones, otherwise the economic model of the service will collapse. The key remains to move towards automation,” says Stéphane Bascobert.

Tindair version 2 in preparation

The Tindair consortium is already considering a more advanced project to apply for the third wave of the Sesar program before the end of the year. The project leaders hope to win seven million euros in European grants for a program of 10 million euros. We will go a notch higher in automation and also in complexity, performing experiments perhaps more in the city, over longer distances and with increased interaction with the classic aerial world. »adds the chairman of Innov’ATM.

In particular, the consortium is discussing with blood transporters who would like to make 15 deliveries a day by drone between a hospital near Montpellier and a logistics area. Everything will depend on the permissions we get »he adds.

Elsewhere in the world, drone transport is starting to become a reality. In Africa, it is already possible to have a toothbrush or medical equipment delivered by drone. IN USA, according to a report published last March by the consulting firm McKinsey, the number of deliveries per drone has gone from 6,000 in 2018 to almost half a million last year.