Photographers gathered in anticipation on the morning of October 12. In a remarkable scene, a drone flew prominently, with an airplane taking off in the background. But this wasn't a mere coincidence. It was the grand finale of the European Civil Drone Exhibition, the UAV Show.
Drones in Action
At the Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport in France, a special four-hectare area, situated just 500 meters from one of the airport's runways, was designated for the drone demonstration. Scalian, a renowned company, showcased a swarm of drones tasked with mapping the area. But that wasn't all. In another showcase, a rogue drone was swiftly intercepted and captured using a net launched by an automated drone.
Patrice Rosier, co-manager of Reflet du Monde, reportedly said, “The project envisions the use of drones for fire detection and extinguishing, complete with water drop capability in hazardous pyrotechnic areas. They'll take flight next spring. We are in the proof-of-concept stage.”
Aeotic, known for their building-cleaning drones, even demonstrated how a drone could potentially clean an airplane.
Benoit Lacaze, manager of Aeotic, shared his excitement, “There's a significant need for de-icing airplanes in negative temperatures. We currently use poles and water jets. Why not a drone tomorrow? It's a possible application.”
The idea was inspired by Nicolas Parant, General Director of Cesa Drones, who believes this could potentially tap into a new market.
The Future of Bordeaux Technowest and the Airport
For many participating companies, these demonstrations were more than just a showcase; they represented potential and innovation. Despite the present novelty of drones in an airport environment, there's a vision for the future.
Bordeaux Technowest and the airport inked an agreement in November 2022 with hopes of establishing a permanent testing zone. The ultimate aim? To set up a vertiport – a vertical take-off and landing platform designed specifically for flying vehicles transporting goods and passengers.
François Baffou, General Director of Bordeaux Technowest, highlighted the ambitions, “The prospect of launching pilotless flying taxis is slated for 2035. The first step begins with these business tests. They can demonstrate their technical and technological prowess by flying in a restricted space under Legal conditions. We serve as a trusted intermediary for DGAC.”
A Firm Stance on Safety
With new technologies come new challenges, especially when ensuring the safety of manned aircraft. Olivier Vuillemin, from the Civil Aviation Directorate of the South West, stressed the importance of stringent measures.
“Drones without onboard pilots can be anxiety-inducing for air traffic controllers. There's an inherent fear of drones as they seem unpredictable,” he said.
For these tests, drones were restricted to a flight altitude of 15 meters to prevent any electromagnetic interference with air traffic control tools.
Vuillemin reportedly added, “In terms of operational risk, measures have been put in place, such as a crash button in the hands of the flight director to down a drone if needed.”
Anti-drone systems, including jamming devices, were also on standby, ensuring the safety of everyone involved.
To many, drones represent the future of aviation, and Bordeaux Technowest is keen on leading the way. Their dedication to innovation and safety is a testament to the role drones will play in the future of air transport.
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