urban air mobility (NASA)

NASA seeks partners for urban air mobility challenge

NASA plans to create safe and efficient  air transport in cities through a series of grand challenges to develop helping urban air mobility (UAM) capabilities, NASA said in an Oct. 15 request for information.

The first challenge, expected to be released at the end of 2020, will address fundamental issues related to UAM, such as vehicle design and the readiness of an air traffic management system.  Vehicle participants will complete safety-focused scenarios that demonstrate performance in normal flights and in unexpected situations, such as the loss of an engine or motor, with the goal of moving these vehicles toward certification.

NASA, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, has developed a set of mission task elements to help identify the relationship between the aircraft performance and an integrated vehicle and airspace system that include:

  • Ground handling, taxi and takeoff.
  • Cruising capabilities and flight path changes.
  • Landing and turnaround in a variety of conditions.
  • Energy storage and battery capacity.
  • Management of critical systems failures.

As system-level requirements for vehicles and airspace management systems mature, the challenges will become more complex, focusing on the integration between vehicles and airspace management around populated areas.

Future challenges will likely address key safety and integration barriers across the entire UAM ecosystem, especially operations around populated areas. Additional scenarios will address interactions between vehicles and both traditional and UAM airspace management systems; detect and avoid capabilities; handling the loss of primary communications, navigation and surveillance capabilities; and public acceptance or response to vehicles.

NASA plans to provide a test range and is currently considering hosting the grand challenge at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Unlike other grand challenges, NASA is not providing a monetary incentive, but rather seeking highly motivated participants to demonstrate prototype systems in a UAM environment.

A UAM industry day will be held Nov. 1-2 in Seattle.  

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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