Revolutionising urban air mobility


In a bid to transform urban air mobility, UAM, Heron AirBridge and SITA have announced a strategic collaboration.

Combining Heron AirBridge’s expertise in unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) with SITA’sx innovative vertiport solutions, the two sides hope to unleash the potential this technology offers.

“The use of unmanned Air Systems (UAS) can help deliver significant efficiencies and actively contribute to developing more sustainable solutions for the benefit of our environment and our society,” Fabrice Ancey, Chief Commercial Officer of Heron AirBridge, said.

As more industry sectors are now actively exploring and adopting the use of UAS to digitise some of their traditional operational processes and reduce corresponding costs, an increase in drones flying in our skies will require careful low level airspace management to maintain safety of all airborne drone operations from different operators simultaneously and uninvolved individuals on the ground while ensuring the network stays clear of manned air traffic.

Heron AirBridge is the first UTM technology company in Southeast Asia, following the successful launch of a UAS traffic management system capable of managing multiple drone operators. The company’s management team collectively has 70+ years of military and civil aerospace expertise.

Heron’s UAS Traffic Management (UTM) is an advanced solution that helps operators comply to the “rules of the sky” seamlessly and ensure full safety and security of their UAS operations. It is a fully dynamic solution that can scale automatically to accommodate to operators’ needs. It helps to overcome challenges in complex urban airspaces and remove blind spots for full situational awareness in Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone operations. The system also offers governments and law enforcement an overall view of the UAS network to ensure its security and overall integrity is constantly maintained.

Integrated solutions 

As larger eVTOL operations slowly become commonplace and grow in numbers, it will become essential to carefully manage their traffic between vertiports alongside other unmanned air traffic and existing manned aviation.

While the Vertiport Management System (VMS) will manage its network of vertiports, planning and scheduling of departures and arrivals, Airbridge UTM will complement it by bridging the vertiports together. Airbridge’s advanced AI will help operators ensure safe and efficient use of the airspace to imposed regulations, enable real-time data exchange between the VMS, the drone and eVTOL operators and the UTM, and estimate precise ETAs that will in turn help the VMS ensure vertiport demand and capacity are always kept in balance to avoid delays and maximise on-time performance.

“The operations will in fact present some distant resemblance to existing airports/airlines/air traffic control operations in today’s manned aviation, albeit in a more dynamic, integrated and automated approach,” Ancey explained.

“The key objective of this partnership is to help shift the transportation industry towards incorporating aviation within its existing ground transportation networks offering passengers integrated multi-modal transportation choices for greater flexibility and efficiency.”


Expert efficiency

As a key player in the air transport industry’s IT provision, SITA brings extensive expertise and is a key innovator in airport and connectivity solutions to drive operational efficiencies.

The development of a VMS represents a natural expansion of airport operations to future vertiports in preparation for the next generation of transportation offerings. Heron complements SITA’s expertise through its extensive knowhow in UAS Traffic Management.

“SITA and Heron’s solutions are fully complementary and the integration of the two will ensure the establishment of a fully dynamic solution that is designed to deliver maximum safety, security and efficiency,” Ancey highlighted.

While SITA focuses on the detailed solution and corresponding processes needed for the smooth functioning of the vertiports, Heron focuses on the traffic management of all eVTOLs flights by allocating pre-deconflicted routes to each aircraft in the VMS network and then tracking them once airborne to ensure full conformance to their operational corridors until safe landing at the arrival vertiport.

“Such an international partnership will not only help advance, test and evaluate new AAM technologies and corresponding concept of operations but will also further support the development of global and robust regulatory frameworks for better transparency, safety, security and efficiency of this future industry that is vital to ensure public acceptance and enable this sector’s economic growth,” Ancey continued.

“With AAM being expected to contribute towards reducing carbon emissions, we also hope the new solution resulting from our partnership will positively contribute towards international efforts to reducing carbon emissions in our fight against climate change.”

Future focus

The establishment of a highly efficient AAM/UAM network will require vertiport infrastructures that combine advanced ground operational processes with high levels of automation which this project aims to innovate today.

Once completed, it is expected to help shift the transportation industry towards incorporating aviation within its existing ground transportation networks offering passengers integrated multi-modal transportation choices for greater flexibility and efficiency in and out of urban environments. It will also actively contribute to the aviation industry’s move towards more customer-centric business models offering passengers greater convenience and experience.

“As the solution matures, thorough evaluations in a simulated environment will be undertaken to ensure the system operates as designed and to the expected levels of resilience,” Ancey stated. “Subject to satisfactory simulated tests, live trials will then be conducted in the next year to gather data to further enhance the overall solution and prepare for future commercialisation.”

Airbridge UTM is at the heart of Heron’s aim to promote aviation sustainability. The system’s advanced Artificial Intelligence coupled with machine learning, allows it to continuously optimise routes and facilitate decision making so operators can make better informed decisions and minimise energy consumptions.

“A key objective of Airbridge is to help organisations scale up electric drone operations and redefine their operational processes which in turn will help reduce transportation-based carbon emissions,” Ancey highlighted.