Personal ground transportation today consists of on-surface vehicles (cars) limited by low speed, high fuel consumption, major safety hazards and the need for costly maintenance of roads and infrastructure. These factors limit the distance one can live conveniently from work, worsening the core-periphery syndrome in which employment centres become residential centres,leaving remotes areas unexploited for employment or residence.
Personal air transport systems are not a near-term system. Considerable progress beyond the current state-of-the-art will have to take place before personal aircraft will be taking off and landing in abundance from airfields only a short distance away from their owner's destination. This technological progress will have to be accompanied by progress in aspects such as regulation, licensing, infrastructure, controlling, synergies with existing forms of transportation (co-modality), etc. But it is clear from the current state of transportation that congestion is worsening and that the situation will quickly becoming unbearable.
The PPlane project is a direct follow up action to the Out-of-the-Box study that aimed at identifying potential new concepts and technologies for future air transport. PPlane adopts the recommendation that is listed in the report:
"The proposed set of mechanisms will result in a structured process approach towards creative and innovative technology development in Europe".
On the higher end of what could be considered as "personal air transport", business aviation is pretty wealthy but, due to its high cost, it can only be used by a very limited number of persons often called "the Jet-set".
At the other end of the spectrum, general aviation is more dedicated to leisure/educational training flights and travels.
PPlane aims at developing a system based on aircraft in between these two extreme categories, some 4 to 6 or 8 passenger aircraft.
To this end, PPlane implements a systematic approach to propose radical and novel ideas for future Personal Air Transport System (PATS), rather than taking incremental steps.
Starting with the definition of potential PATS new concepts with various automation levels and pilot competency requirements, the project will sort these concepts using an optimisation model and several selection criteria. The main ones include security and safety, automation and control, environment and human factors. Horizontal areas such as technologies, regulation and affordability are considered in each of the above criteria. The resulting concepts are analysed and compared, resulting in recommendations for implementation across Europe.
Moreover, the definition of the PATS concepts will be built according to the ATM structure planned in SESAR and will also bring some inputs to its WP-E in the research themes: "towards higher levels of automation", "mastering complex systems safely" and "economics and performance".
The project adopts a similar methodology to the one used in the Out-of-the-Box study.
The project is divided into four main phases. The first one deals with the PPlane system definition, leading to a rough definition of numerous PPlane concepts. Then a PPlane system selection is made, which purpose is to retain only the most promising ones. The preferred PPlane systems detailed description follows, deepening the level of detail of the definition of the retained concepts, regarding various technological and societal aspects. The last phase of the project is dedicated to recommendations, making the synthesis of the detailed concepts, in order to provide insights into possible and viable future PATS.
The PPlane project starts with a work package dedicated to analyse the operational concepts of such a system. Then, a set of issues to design the various components of the system in a proper way are analysed in four work packages dealing with security and safety of the system, automation and control, human factors and environment concerns. Transverse fields of interest (affordability, social acceptance, regulations and technology) are investigated all along the work performed in these work packages,
The project is concluded by a definition of scenarios in order to verify the main assumptions that have been made.
Two other "conventional work packages" are dedicated to the dissemination and management tasks.
The expected result from the project is a comprehensive view on the possibility to develop such a Personnel Air Transport System, its viability, its structure (components) and its organisation (as a part of the global air transport system, integrated into the air traffic management system).
This PATS will appear to be, or not be, workable through a multicriteria analysis where four topics will be studied in depth.
The first one is affordability as the economic aspect of a personal air transport system is paramount. The second one is technology availability as this is a major enabler for such a system. Social acceptance is also an important topic nowadays as any significant change in the population way of life has to be agreed and not imposed. Last but not least, the regulation issues are not to be underestimated. In Aviation, regulations have been built based on more than 100 years of experience; any necessary change to accommodate a PATS in the ATS, if any, will have to be fully documented and justified as the introduction of a new system into the already well-regulated air transport system should not compromise the safety and the security of the other airspace users.
Moreover, the dissemination phase of the project will allow setting plans for the future of PATS.