Thales sees Asia-Pacific as fertile ground for the development of UAM


With an urban population set to double by 2050 in a part of the world already dotted with huge metropolitan complexes, the Asia-Pacific region ranks among the most promising for the development of urban air mobility (UAM) markets and associated control systems, according to Groupe Thalès.

Citing Thales’s credentials as a company working on UAM systems and unmanned traffic management (UTM) solutions for many years, Marc Duval-Destin, Vice President of Strategy, Product Policy and innovation, believes that “the Asian market is … particularly suited to the eVTOL adventure.”

Large cities in the region with congested road networks will make UAM transport particularly important, he said. At the same time, areas of poor land transport infrastructure make “regional connections difficult to access” within and between many Asia-Pacific countries. “Many eVTOL initiatives have originated in China, Japan, Singapore, Korea and Australia and these countries are particularly active in developing the eVTOL market,” Duval-Destin explained.

Singapore is a good example, he added. A country where Thales has been present since 1973, Singapore is today home to 2,100 Thales employees and four company facilities, as well as the first multidisciplinary innovation center outside of Europe. Thales’s R&D activities include the development of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and UTM systems.

This work stems from Thales’s longstanding production of avionics and air traffic management (ATM) systems in Singapore, including its contracts to supply Changi Airport with Thales LORADS III ATM solutions. Thanks to a joint laboratory for research on aeronautical innovation, Thales is now partnering with the civil authority of Singapore to develop an open ATM architecture and accelerate the digitization of ATM.

“Combining expertise in avionics, ATM and digital identity, we have initiated activities in Singapore to secure drone development via ScaleFlyt Remote ID,” said Duval-Destin. “Weighing just 70 grams, this UAM drone and virtual license plate uses 5G to LTE-M cellular networks to accurately track, identify and monitor the status of every aerial vehicle in flight. It is an essential element to enable traffic management.

In Singapore, Thales has also been working with H3 Dynamics since 2018 “to bring safe and seamless drone automation as the next chapter in unmanned aerial operations and as a key enabler in the future of urban air mobility”, said declared Duval-Destin. The work involved H3 Dynamics and Thales testing “a real-time autonomous drone flight monitoring system in an urban environment in Singapore”, he explained.

The trial combined H3 Dynamics’ DBX autonomous drone charging box and a drone registered and electronically identified using Thales’ remote ID tracker under the management and monitoring of the Thales UAS Airspace Management solution. “[As a result]safe surveillance of urban drone operations and beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) is now a real near-term possibility,” he explained.

Building on this work, Thales has created TopSky-UAS, an unmanned traffic management platform that facilitates interoperability with existing ATC systems,” said Duval-Destin. “Collaborative by design, TopSky-UAS interconnects every part of current and future drone ecosystems, from air navigation service providers to municipal, regional and national authorities.”

The company believes that unmanned and autonomously piloted operations will be integral to the future of the eVTOL UAM market, which by 2035 could reach 20,000 aircraft and could more than double by 2040, reaching 45,000 vehicles. generating $16 billion in annual revenue, Duval-Destin said.

As a result, one of Thales’ core UAM development activities is to “offer autonomy solutions as an asset to UAM operations”, he added. Its expertise in avionics and air traffic management makes helping its customers define the right regulatory and normative environment another development priority for Thales UAM.

Thales’ UAM development strategy focuses on cooperation with other companies that can provide other enabling technologies to support traffic management, flight control, power generation and power conversion systems. that Thales offers itself. “We have initiated cooperation with players from all over the world,” said Duval-Destin.

“A number of them remain confidential but our partnerships range, for example, from startups such as Flying Whales, developing a giant heavy airship, to traditional aviation leaders such as Airbus and Bell for their eVTOLs, and also with end customers such as utility providers like Terega for drone gas pipeline inspection,” he said. “We also cooperate with leading system suppliers such as Diehl Aerospace.”

Thales and Diehl plan to offer flight control systems dedicated to the UAM market and Airbus has jointly selected them to supply the electric flight controls for the future CityAirbus NextGen air taxi.


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