Cities growing rapidly are finding it increasingly difficult to expand and upgrade their transportation infrastructure such as roads and subways to accommodate their rising population.

The solution to such immediate transportation challenges is urban air mobility, according to US-based Vimana Global, which is introducing autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) for smart cities, along with the first blockchain airspace platform for managing their flight routes.

AAVs are essentially ‘air taxis’ that can be used to transport passengers from the suburbs to downtown or from one skyscraper to another. Vimana is building two-seater and four-seater AAVs that utilise patented vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology to enable navigation through congested cities. The AAVs are designed to reach altitudes of up to 3000m, but Vimana is limiting that considerably to keep in line with aviation regulations.

Evgeni Borisov, CEO and co-founder, Vimana Global, explains the need for AAVs as alternative transportation systems.

“In highly congested cities like Tokyo and Singapore, it would be very costly to completely overhaul the existing road and rail infrastructure to accommodate rising population sizes. These cities along with cities like Dubai, which have already invested in technology and have well-established smart city initiatives, are prime locations for aerial commuter vehicles,” says Borisov.

Airspace management with blockchain

The main challenge facing implementation of an AAV network is that existing air traffic control towers (ATCTs) are unequipped to manage potentially thousands of AAV flights in a given city because they are centralised, human-controlled systems. Vimana addresses this hurdle by incorporating AAV flight paths into a blockchain-backed airspace management platform.

Vimana’s blockchain-based airspace management and transportation protocol, the decentralised VTOL traffic Management (DVTM) platform, is designed to be fully autonomous and interconnected with every take-off and landing area (TOLA), directional beacon and aircraft that is registered on the system. Through this protocol, aircrafts are constantly aware of all other participants in the system, and the chances of mid-air collisions are eliminated.

Each AAV communicates with all other AAVs on the network in a peer-to-peer fashion. The decentralised nature of the platform ensures that authority is not concentrated in any one entity or structure, which is more secure and less-easily disrupted by human error. Additionally, the use of blockchain technology ensures that the network is secure from external threats.

“Blockchain technology is uniquely suited to power Vimana’s airspace network because of its capacity to validate data using next generation blockchain infrastructure. Each Vimana AAV VTOL carries a Vimana blockchain airspace node running DVTM and passenger DNA protocols that communicate with terrestrial blockchain airspace nodes, and thus ensure safe and seamless operation of numerous aircraft. Blockchain airspace infrastructure guarantees that Vimana AAV flight control doesn’t have a single point of failure,” says Borisov.

Borisov elaborates on the safety features the AAV. “For example, safe tilt-wing transition eliminates the airdrop that has plagued the VTOL market from its inception. Moreover, the blockchain airspace concept introduces five nines of uptime and availability into the air traffic control (ATC) system, as well as know your customer (KYC) transparency into both passenger manifesto and aircraft identification, something that was not possible before blockchain’s ubiquitous availability,” he says.

Vimana owns the blockchain airspace infrastructure and protocols and provides technical support and maintenance for all their hardware and software.

“Our ecosystem embraces other AAVs and local operators and allows them to access the Vimana blockchain airspace network. We will work with local regulators and partners on determining the kind of aircraft that is required in each city. Vimana’s and the rest of the blockchain airspace infrastructure will be licensed by local operators,” says Borisov.