How will Switzerland’s Universities support Urban Air Mobility?

On February 5th, we attended an event focused on space and earth innovation. The event took place in Payerne, at the Swiss Aeropole’s technology park and was organized by the HEIG-VD (School of Management and Engineering Vaud).

The military airport of Payerne has the third longest runway in Switzerland and is now also open for civil use. It aims to be a regional hub by offering two different services which are the airport itself as well as a business park. On one hand, the airport handles lot of business trips to destinations in Europe. It has positioned itself as a reliable and convenient airport thanks to its centre location in Switzerland and the time they are able to save for their clients’ trips.

On the other hand, there is a technology park which has four development fields: Autonomous vehicles, Drones, Aeronautics and Aerospace. Their goal is to use this park in order to develop the different fields, foster innovation and collaboration between companies active in the aviation field or related ones. Selected companies can have premises at the airport and work in a supportive environment.

Regarding the HEIG-VD, it was an opportunity for them to show what they can bring with their work and innovation on earth and in space. As one of their main missions is to support and boost the industrial and economic fabric through Applied Research & Development (R&D), they realise in 200 projects per year in average. We had the chance to witness some of them and were impressed by the work they do. We have noticed some interesting R&D activities that could be very helpful in the UAM field. Here are some of the domains or competencies developed at the HEIG-VD.


It is defined as a domain that uses a set of technologies to model, represent and analyze the territory in order to create virtual representations. Thanks to the diverse improvements made in technologies, it is now possible to have better representations and this domain is for instance used to assess the best routes to use for a plane according to the topography of a country.

A project has been done for the REGA by the HEIG-VD to deliver the best routes to use for their helicopter while they are rescuing people in the mountains. The goal of the REGA was to fly at a low altitude without colliding. Hence, geomatic was the perfect match for them and thanks to this domain, they were able to reach their goal.

3D printing

Thanks to the improvements made in 3D printing, it is possible to print lighter composites for planes. This method enables companies to lighten some of the components of a plane. Some of them that used to be completely metallic are now composed of carbon fibers.

It is obvious that there is room for improvements as for now, only a few parts are transformed. Moreover, other composites could be found that are lighter than the ones currently used. Lighter planes already lead to less consumption of energy and more advancements will lead to greater reduction. As a result, it will be beneficial for the environment as well as the financial resources of companies as they will spend less money to refuel their planes.

Onboard systems

Onboard systems are valuable assets to the infrastructure required to operate air taxis. The complexity of the technological architecture required will need specific onboard systems that ensure safety on and offboard.

The need for sensors, excellent communication systems in the UAM industry is very important as air taxi services rely heavily on technologies. One of the biggest challenges will be to integrate many components and to build bridges between each of them. The achievement of this architecture is fundamental for the success of the Urban Air Mobility field.


All the technologies involved in this new type of transportation lead to an extremely important factor that will be key for the success of this industry which is the cybersecurity. The program Y-Security could be very helpful for the UAM field as the security of these technological vehicles is questioned. Indeed, it is a key point in its own development and the social acceptance.

At the end of the day, we had the chance to witness a presentation given by André Borschberg. He talked about his experience with Solar Impulse and Bertrand Piccard. This world tour showed to humanity that we can have faith in clean energies. He talked about the VTOL technology and its main limitations which are:

  1. Social acceptance
  2. Battery technology
  3. Certification

It is interesting to note that the battery cost is decreasing faster than expected. Hence, it is a good sign for this technology which needs improvements to be more efficient than petrol.

Lastly, to offer a cleaner alternative to the aviation industry and in the continuity of the project Solar Impulse, he set up a company in Switzerland called H55. At H55, they are working on a fully electric propulsion system for small aircrafts.

To conclude, we would like to invite our members and followers to not hesitate to contact us or directly the airport of Payerne or the HEIG-VD as they are eager to collaborate with more professionals and companies. Hence, if you sense a great opportunity and need support and collaboration, do not hesitate to contact them in order to give them a mandate. They would be more than happy to assess your proposal, understand your need and deliver what you expect.

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