A route network planning method for urban air delivery

Xinyu He, Fang He, Lishuai Li*, Lei Zhang, Gang Xiao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
166 Downloads (Pure)


High-tech giants and start-ups are investing in drone technologies to provide urban air delivery service, which is expected to solve the last-mile problem and mitigate road traffic congestion. However, air delivery service will not scale up without proper traffic management for drones in dense urban environment. Currently, a range of Concepts of Operations (ConOps) for unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) are being proposed and evaluated by researchers, operators, and regulators. Among these, the tube-based (or corridor-based) ConOps has emerged in operations in some regions of the world for drone deliveries and is expected to continue serving certain scenarios that with dense and complex airspace and requires centralized control in the future. Towards the tube-based ConOps, we develop a route network planning method to design routes (tubes) in a complex urban environment in this paper. In this method, we propose a priority structure to decouple the network planning problem, which is NP-hard, into single-path planning problems. We also introduce a novel space cost function to enable the design of dense and aligned routes in a network. The proposed method is tested on various scenarios and compared with other state-of-the-art methods. Results show that our method can generate near-optimal route networks with significant computational time-savings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102872
JournalTransportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Multi-path planning
  • Unmanned aircraft system traffic management
  • Urban air delivery
  • Urban air mobility


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