Maturing AAM technology with CEO & Head of UAM at Airbus

Maturing AAM technology with CEO & Head of UAM at Airbus

Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) have long been sparking conversation around what the future of transport will look like. With recent major developments in the AAM sector, this is evolving from concept to imminent reality. Balkiz Sarihan, CEO & Head of UAM at Airbus shared her insights on this journey and what it could mean for our cities.

Firstly discussing the promise of AAM, Sarihan described what adding a new mobility layer to a city would look like and the potential it offers for revolutionising how we live our lives and design our cities.

The conversation also touched on the challenges that come with integrating this technology into the broader ecosystem, where Sarihan cautioned that patience and safety are paramount and fostering collaboration across stakeholders is essential.

Looking ahead, Sarihan unpacked the steps need to mature AAM aircraft, mentioning investment, safety standards, and user interface.

Questions asked:

  • Can you briefly summarise the transformative potential of Advanced Air Mobility?
  • What are the major challenges you foresee when it comes to the broader ecosystem of Urban Air Mobility? How are you pre-empting these?
  • What are your priorities for the next five years?

Watch the full interview below.



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Ensuring safety while integrating AI with Anna von Groote, Director General, EUROCAE

Ensuring safety while integrating AI with Anna von Groote, Director General, EUROCAE

Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionising every industry and aviation is no exception. Its transformative power already spans a multitude of applications and more doors are opening as the technology develops. However, its rapid integration into this safety critical sector requires a measured approach, facilitated by expert understanding of technology and the industry.

EUROCAE, the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment, plays a pivotal role in advancing the aviation industry through its range of standards. The non-profit organisation brings together manufacturers, operators, regulators, and other aviation stakeholders to develop and promote standards for aviation equipment and related systems. Taking a proactive approach to standardisation, EUROCAE is instrumental in ensuring the aviation industry can harness the benefits of AI without compromising safety and trustworthiness.

Watch below for five-minute insights from Anna von Groote, Director General, EUROCAE on the importance of standardisation as the industry navigates the role of AI.

Questions asked include:

  •  Can you articulate the impact AI has had on the industry? And how have you noticed this change in recent years?
  • How do you tackle the issue of AI trustworthiness when thinking about safety within the industry?
  • With AI evolving at such a rapid pace, how do you approach its standardisation and do you anticipate having to change this approach if its applications within the industry continue to proliferate?

See EUROCAE’s Video series on AI in aviation here. 



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Willie Walsh: “They’re part of the problem, they’ve got to be part of the solution.”

Willie Walsh: “They’re part of the problem, they’ve got to be part of the solution.”

At Aerospace Tech Week, Willie Walsh, Director General, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) joined for a five minute discussion on the industry landscape. During the interview, he outlined a path for tackling the sustainability challenge and looked at the failures of the Single European Sky (SES) deal.

Underscoring the critical role of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in navigating the decarbonisation of the industry, Walsh briefly mapped out the role governments must play in stimulating its scale up. Highlighting the concerning disparity between the US and European SAF production, Walsh cautioned that we are not seeing the right balance between incentives and mandates being adopted internationally, and governments are failing to recognise the opportunity in front of them.

Walsh urged that effectively addressing the sustainability challenge will take the support from every member of the ecosystem including governments, regulators, OEMs etc. Singling out fuel suppliers, Walsh said:

“Traditional fuel suppliers who have made hundreds of billions in profit off the industry over the years need to significantly accelerate their investment in the production of SAF […] They’re part of the problem, they’ve got to be part of the solution.”

Unpacking the flaws of the SES deal which Walsh previously condemned as a “failure,” he highlighted its initial promises: a tenfold improvement in safety, tripling Europe’s airspace capacity, substantial cost reduction, and a 10 per cent decrease in CO2 emissions. Criticising the deal for falling short on all four fronts, Walsh described the deal as “very disappointing given the critical importance of all of those issues.”

Questions asked:

  • You described the EU’s Single European Sky deal as a failure. Which areas in particular did the agreement fall short and to what extent will this impact the industry’s ability to modernise European air traffic management?
  • What do you see as the major challenges when it comes to meeting the net zero by 2050 goal and how many of these are going to require government involvement to overcome them?
  • How do you propose we catalyse the mindset shift towards a more inclusive ecosystem involving governments, suppliers, airlines etc.?

Watch the full interview below.



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Airbus UpNext unveils electric ‘flying truck’ for flight testing

Airbus UpNext unveils electric ‘flying truck’ for flight testing

The Airbus innovation arm UpNext has launched Optimate, a “flying truck” replicating an A350 cockpit. The fully-electric next-generation autonomy demonstrator emulates the aircraft, rolling down airport runways equipped with an A350 virtual flight deck and ‘computer vision’ devices, including geo-locating sensors, 4D radar and LIDAR, as well as a full flight test installation in the back to monitor the tests.

Developed in partnership with researchers, regulatory bodies, and industry stakeholders, Optimate is designed to both support pilots and increase operational safety. The truck has already been trialled at UpNext’s HQ and Blagnac airport but this year it aims to experience the runways of an international airport.

One key objective for the three-year research project is evaluating how a collaborative map and virtual flight assistant can aid a pilot’s strategic decisions alongside air traffic control and airline operations centres. A second objective is for the test bed to develop and test automatic taxiing grounded in reliable position calculations and unlocking the potential of quantum.

However, the press release detailed the project’s ultimate aim as “perform[ing] a highly efficient automatic ‘gate-to-gate’ mission on an Airbus commercial airliner, featuring 4D trajectory flight management, a tablet-operated connected virtual assistant, and overridable protections – all to support the flight crew.”

Remaining mindful of sustainability, the use of an electric vehicle reduces unnecessary CO2 emissions.

Michael Augello, CEO Airbus UpNext said:

“We are delighted to unveil another innovative demonstrator that reflects our unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of aviation. Our ambition is to use the best technologies to make our aircraft even more aware of their operating conditions, analysing it in as much detail as possible to become smart and reliable assistants to pilots, providing them with the optimal assistance. We are confident that this project will contribute to safer and more efficient air travel.”


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UK tests “ground-breaking” quantum enabled navigation systems

UK tests “ground-breaking” quantum enabled navigation systems

This month, the UK successfully tested “ground-breaking” quantum technology aimed at creating an unjammable back-up for GPS navigation systems.

Although the technology’s “practical implementation” in commercial aviation is still estimated to be 10-20 years away in the UK, this test signals a key milestone for quantum enabled navigation systems.

The research has received nearly £8m in funding from the UK government who are pushing to be seen as a world leader on quantum, and is the “first test of this type of technology in the UK on an aircraft in flight.”

Accordingly to the government press release, the test is part of a project funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) specifically focusing on creating quantum sensors to address the UK’s heavy reliance on GNSS/GPS for location, navigation, and timing data.

Science Minister Andrew Griffith said:

“From passenger flights to shipping, we all depend on navigation systems that are accurate, safe and secure. The scientific research we are supporting here on quantum technology could well provide the resilience to protect our interests.”

The flight tests involved Infleqtion, a quantum information company, and aerospace companies BAE Systems and QinetiQ. The two tests showed the technology offers “exceptional accuracy, and resilience, independent of traditional satellite navigation using GPS.”

Roger McKinlay, Challenge Director Quantum Technologies at Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), said:

“Modern infrastructure is increasingly dependent on highly accurate timing and navigation derived from satellite signals. These flight tests mark the culmination of two excellent projects which Infleqtion has had the vision to create and the deftness in leadership to execute with an outstanding team of collaborators.”

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McKinsey underscores gen AI’s role in bridging the labour gap

McKinsey underscores gen AI’s role in bridging the labour gap

Extensive labour shortages the aviation industry is currently facing have been identified as a critical challenge with the potential to slow progress, and the MRO sector is no exception. In fact, McKinsey & Company research indicates that by 2033, one-fifth of aviation maintenance technician jobs will go unfilled.

However, generative AI (gen AI) is seen as a potential way to bridge this growing gap, and the MRO industry is particularly is well positioned to benefit from the innovative technology. Gathering research on this topic, a recent McKinsey article looked at the transformative potential of gen AI for the MRO sector, here are some of its key insights.

The major ways gen AI can assist the MRO industry are as:

  • Virtual AI maintenance and repair experts (“co-pilots”)
  • AI-augmented reliability engineering tools
  • Assistants who take care of busywork
  • Permanent quality control supervisors
  • Supply chain managers
  • Accelerators of onboarding hires through skills training

Key challenges with its integration include:

  • Striking the right balance between careful and agile
  • Preserving strict safety and regulatory compliance
  • Finding the right talent
  • Having the right data

Highlighting gen AI’s potential, the article references a mining company that is scaling its support tools. The company is projected to see “at least a 35 per cent reduction in the time it will take technicians to troubleshoot equipment problems and at least a 25 per cent reduction in the time needed to do unplanned repairs.”

“Given the acute labour shortages in the MRO industry, these capabilities could turn out to be substantial productivity levers. There is also reason to believe that gen AI platforms could boost the quality, consistency, and accuracy of maintenance work, ultimately keeping more aircraft in the sky and minimizing aircraft out-of-service periods.”

Gen AI has the potential to transform the MRO sector, providing a range of solutions to the industry’s workforce challenge. Although its integration comes with a set of obstacles, if successful, the technology could help establish a more efficient, accurate, and safe industry.


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