During the first online ADW Industry Update, Wesley Poland, Project Manager at Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR), spoke about the importance of shared airspace for both UTM and ATM and the integration of eVTOLs in cities. Afterwards, we asked Wesley a few more questions.
What is the role that NLR sees for itself in the industry?
“We want to be the party that gets things done in the Netherlands and in Europe. We are not a competing party, but a research centre that paves the way for the outside world through extensive research and testing. Take drone delivery for example. Existing companies that are interested in this do not have the resources themselves to conduct proper research into a use case. We can. And with our effort, market parties can determine for themselves whether there is a solid business case for them. ”
The drone industry is relatively young compared to the other research areas that NLR focuses on. How big is the share of unmanned devices in the meantime?
“I think our first research into drones dates back to 2002, when the sector was really still in its infancy. NLR has several divisions with their own departments. There are now at least 6 to 7 departments within NLR that deal with drones. Within those departments, this involves 2 to 3 employees. I myself, together with 4 colleagues, spend about 75% of my time in drone research."
In your presentation you emphasized the importance of practical testing. How many tests does NLR do?
“At our NLR Drone centre in Marknesse, we perform 1 or 2 flights a day. Sometimes these are very short flights in which we test a new propulsion system, for example, and sometimes our customers have mounted a new camera on a drone and want to see how this affects flight behavior. But what I was referring to in my presentation are tests within the Controlled Traffic Region (CTR) of Schiphol Airport. And then you are talking about a few dozen per year. We are preparing new flights in the Dutch Drone Delta consortium.”
What do you think are the biggest obstacles to the integration of eVTOLs in the city right now?
“BVLOS flights are currently not allowed within Schiphol's CTR. We will have to look at that. As CTR covers a substantial part of the total area in the Netherlands, a conclusive business case is currently not possible. I also expect that the new legislation that will take effect in the beginning of 2021, and which is likely to be enforced more strictly, may form an obstacle. I hope that the new rules will be explained and propagated very actively. And for broad-based participation, it is very important that practical experience is gained with U-space, as introduced by Air Traffic Control the Netherlands, the LVNL.”