European aerospace research organizations are close to completing a study of a personal air transportation concept that could be realized in 2030 to 2050, in which passengers would use small pilotless aircraft to fill the gaps in the scheduled air transport network. Under the PPlane concept, a passenger or small group of passengers would book a flight with an aircraft operator. Teams of “pilots” on the ground would take care of a group of automated aircraft.
Air traffic management (ATM) would be based on “four-dimension contracts,” where operators commit their aircraft to be at a given place, at a given time. In exchange, the ATM authority would give the aircraft a direct route that would be transmitted to an aircraft’s flight management system.
The €4.4 million ($5.7 million) program started in 2009 and will end this October. The European Commission is providing three-quarters of the project’s budget.