In this week’s roundup from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which highlights some of the latest news and headlines in unmanned vehicles and robotics, a new partnership for automated trucking fleets, urban air mobility programs begin in Spain, and the United States Air Force awards a new contract for unmanned aerial systems development.
Compiled by Brian Sprowl, Associate Editor, AUVSI
Locomation, Wilson Logistics partner for autonomous trucking pilot
The provider of what it says is the world’s first trucking technology platform to offer human-guided autonomous convoying, a company called Locomation has announced a multi-year partnership with transportation logistics company Wilson Logistics that will result in Locomation’s autonomous technology being put on the road across several critical Wilson Logistics shipping routes.
During the three-year pilot, Locomation’s Autonomous Relay Convoy (ARC) technology will be integrated onto 11 separate Wilson Logistics ARC segments. With ARC, one driver can pilot a lead truck equipped with technology augmentation while a follower truck operates in tandem through Locomation’s fully autonomous system, allowing the follower driver to log off and rest during this time.
The companies note that each ARC segment is engineered for maximum yield by Locomation’s business operations team, which is led by industry veteran Tom Kroswek.
“Our work with Locomation will mark a significant step forward for Wilson Logistics,” says Darrel Wilson, chairman and CEO of Wilson Logistics.
“Not only will we improve asset utilization and network efficiency, but we’ll make great strides in reducing our energy spend while improving safety. It also makes the truck a much better place to work for our team of professional truck drivers.”
Locomation will provide a two-truck convoy with safety staff during the pilot. The company will also work with the Wilson Logistics operations team to execute the “most efficient freight movements possible.”
The companies hypothesize that at full commercialization, Locomation’s autonomous vehicle technology is expected to produce an estimated 33 percent reduction in operating cost per mile, eight percent reduction in fuel expense, and remove 41 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air per tractor annually.
During the initial commercialization phase, 124 trucks will be deployed. That number is expected to expand to more than 2,000 or more ARC-equipped trucks operating daily in their ARC networks.
“We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership,” says Dr. Çetin Meriçli, CEO and co-founder of Locomation. “We’ve built our ARC technology stack and network strategy to leverage the value of long-established trucking routes and systems. Wilson Logistics is a perfect fit for our first pilot program.”
Locomation trucks are expected to begin operations at Wilson Logistics this spring. At peak implementation, the agreement is expected to operate more than 62 two-truck convoys on 11 ARC segments throughout the United States.
The next step in the partnership anticipates the delivery of more than 1,000 two-truck convoys representing more than 2,000 ARC-equipped trucks operating on more than 68 ARC segments across the nation.
EHang, city government of Seville partner to launch first UAM pilot program in Spain
EHang and the city government of Seville, Spain have entered into a cooperation agreement to launch the first Urban Air Mobility (UAM) pilot program in Spain.
Under the agreement, EHang and the Seville government will work together to develop the urban air mobility, which includes passenger transportation, air logistics and command and control platforms in the city. In accordance with Spanish and European legislation, the city will also collaborate on applications for permission to conduct test flights, and it will coordinate with EHang to plan flight routes.
“Establishing the partnership with EHang, one of the world's leading UAM enterprises, is a great opportunity for Seville. Our city has a rich legacy in European aviation, which we believe can promote EHang’s AAV tests, operations, and permitting applications both in Spain and Europe,” says Seville Mayor Juan Espadas Cejas.
“We look forward to EHang’s first flight in Seville and hope our cooperation will facilitate the commercialization of its UAM ecosystem in Europe.”
The entities note that according to the European Commission’s urban mobility report, more than 60 percent of European citizens live in urban areas of over 10,000 inhabitants, which inevitably leads to traffic congestion and air pollution. Congestion in the European Union costs nearly EUR 100 billion every year, accounting for one percent of the EU's annual GDP.
To promote the transformation of urban three-dimensional transportation, the EU's EIP-SCC (European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities) project launched the UAM Initiative Cities Community in 2017. Seville is a member of the UAM Initiative Cities Community.
“Seville has developed a rich culture over its 2,000 years of history, so we are delighted to collaborate with the Seville government to bring new UAM technology to this ancient city,” says Mr. Hu Huazhi, the Founder, Chairman and CEO of EHang.
“There are many old, narrow paths in the old town of Seville, which are inaccessible to automobiles. We believe our AAV can be a great solution for the city to relieve traffic congestion and better preserve historic sectors.”
Planck Aerosystems awarded contract to help small UAS operate in challenging environments
The United States Air Force Research Lab has awarded Planck Aerosystems Inc. (Planck Aero) a contract to develop guidance, navigation, and control solutions for small UAS operating in challenging environments.
The result of the most recent solicitation from the Air Force’s Open Innovation topics of the competitive awards-based Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR), the contract will result in Planck Aero developing a visual compass for small UAS in environments where existing commercial offerings may suffer degraded performance.
To help the small UAS operate safely and reliably without having to rely just on GPS or other expensive and heavy installed hardware, Planck Aero is leveraging existing products, as well as its expertise in vision-based navigation.
“Planck has always focused on developing and deploying technologies necessary for unmanned systems to operate in areas that have previously been inaccessible,” says Josh Wells, Planck Aero’s CEO.
“Our technology enables drones to operate from moving vehicles and vessels on land or at sea for commercial and defense customers. This project is a natural extension of that technology.”