Between October 11th–15th 2021, the city of Hamburg will be hosting the next edition of the ITS World Congress as an in-person event, the first since the pandemic. Organized by ERTICO_ITS Europe, a public/private partnership organization focused on pushing forward innovation in smart mobility, the Congress will profile the changing face of mobility with real-world examples of electric vehicle implementation, shared transport, and autonomy taking center stage.

According to ERTICO, Hamburg is one of the world’s leading city innovators in new transport solutions, and being a prominent port city is a key factor for ITS and smart mobility, which plays a central role in developing next-generation logistics, helping ports to be more efficient, sustainable, and profitable.  

“Visitors to Hamburg will experience many real-life aspects of future mobility – this is a place where mobility transition is actively showcased,” said Martin Huber, Director-General Transport, Ministry of Transport and Mobility Transition, Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. “As a city, we are working to prevent climate change. We are working for mobility for people, not for cars. And we are working for safe, clean, and sustainable mobility.”

As a city that currently has about 64 percent of its mobility share through sustainable modes and aims to increase that to 80 percent by 2030, Hamburg delivers cleaner transport through a mobility strategy as part of its Climate Action Plan, which includes closing roads to traffic, implementing a bicycle renting service, and building new subway routes. While mostly focused on autonomous road vehicles and how they can make mobility greener, safer, and more efficient for everyone, ITS 2021 will also show how drones play an important part in mobility.

We’ve written in the past about how drone deliveries can surpass some of the obstacles presented to road vehicles by avoiding traffic and delivering items faster, just like Amazon’s new patent that plans to use a van together with drones and ground robots to make deliveries. However, one of the most prominent tests for drone deliveries is the delivery of medical supplies. That is why Medifly, Hamburg’s joint research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Transportation and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), will be showcasing its technology at ITS 2021. Last year, Medifly successfully conducted a total of six drone flights between the German Armed Forces Hospital in Wandsbek-Gartenstadt and Saint Mary’s Hospital in Hohenfelde, to explore how far UAVs can deliver medical samples safely and reliably.

To organize infrastructure and traffic capacity, so cargo flows are quick and efficient, Hamburg’s smartPORT initiative will take advantage of ITS technologies to face the challenges in balancing economics with the social impacts created by port activities, promoting sustainable economic growth and optimal efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts. Present at ITS 2021 to showcase its products, HHLA Sky, winner of the German Innovation Award 2021 and developer of a globally scalable end-to-end drone system, has shown earlier this year how drones can make a difference at the Port of Hamburg. Together with Telekom, HHLA controlled and monitored a fleet of industrial drones from a single control center to inspect container gantry cranes and asphalt surfaces to increase safety on the port site. Not only did this save time compared to previous inspection procedures, but it also reduced workload with no downtime of critical infrastructure.

There are other examples of how drones can improve safety, cut costs, and increase efficiency in ports globally. Earlier this year, Montrose Port demonstrated how the safety and efficiency of ports can be improved using drones to reduce the number of trips to vessels by pilot boats, and the Port of Antwerp set a goal to have a network of autonomous drones for a live feed of the various port activities.

Another ITS drone project that will be shown at ITS 2021 is Helmut Schmidt University’s Advanced Aerial Mobility – UAS research project, FALKE. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), FALKE is a counter-UAS system for countering illegally operating drones, which will use Hamburg Airport as an example. FALKE provides an automated and standardized solution that can be used as a blueprint for other airports. On September 22nd, 2021, FALKE successfully demonstrated for the first time the interception of a non-cooperative drone in a field test at Hamburg Airport. 

ITS 2021 will also explore the future of connectivity, including policy, infrastructure, security, and standards. According to Peter Stuckmann, Head of Unit - Future Connectivity Systems at the European Commission’s DG CONNECT, “5G is fundamental” and a “flagship area” for the future of mobility, which requires a properly connected and integrated infrastructure. Confirming the rapid evolution of 5G, Jan Ellsberger, Vice President of Industry Development at Huawei, points out that the 350 million 5G subscriptions in April 2021 are projected to grow tenfold to 3.5 billion by 2026. Providing higher bandwidth and lower latency than 4G, 5G is a major topic for the drone industry. Earlier this year, Commercial UAV News connected with Oliver Spatscheck, a Distinguished Inventive Scientist at AT&T, to understand how AT&T 5G Innovation Studio is creating the network the drone industry needs.

“This World Congress comes after a difficult and very different year,” said Dr. Johanna Tzanidaki, Director of Innovation and Deployment, ERTICO-ITS Europe. “We want to give people hard facts rather than promises; this is not about plans and research but about showcasing the reality of ITS innovations now. We are busy reshaping the future of mobility into a liveable, safe, and affordable world – it’s an exciting time to be part of the ITS community.”

ERTICO is committed to delivering a physical event with nearly 50 demonstrations and 20 technical visits that could not easily be replicated online. Take note that, while this is an in-person event, COVID safety measures still apply.