NASA has signed a second space act agreement with Uber Technologies, to further explore concepts and technologies related to urban air mobility (UAM) to ensure a safe and efficient system for future air transportation in populated areas.
Under this agreement, Uber will share its plans for implementing an urban aviation rideshare network. NASA will use the latest in airspace management computer modelling and simulation to assess the impacts of small aircraft – from delivery drones to passenger aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability – in crowded environments. This is NASA’s first such agreement specifically focused on modelling and simulation for UAM operations.
"Urban air mobility could revolutionise the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smart phones have,”said Jaiwon Shin, from the Space agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “NASA is excited ... to identify the key challenges facing the UAM market, and explore necessary research, development and testing requirements to address those challenges.”
At its research facility at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, NASA will use the data supplied by Uber to simulate a small passenger-carrying aircraft as it flies through DFW airspace during peak scheduled air traffic. Analysis of these simulations will identify safety issues as these new aircraft take to the air in an already crowded air traffic control system.
As small aircraft enter the marketplace, NASA wants to ensure they do so safely, with acceptable levels of noise, and without burdening the current national air traffic control system. To this end, the agency is leveraging ongoing aeronautics research in areas including: Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) traffic management at low altitude; UAS integration in the National Airspace System; all-electric, general aviation class aircraft development; vertical take-off and landing aircraft; system-wide safety; and more.
The US Space body said it has been working with other agencies, industry and organisations to test technologies that can help drones navigate safely beyond visual-line-of-sight. These activities will generate the data necessary to support the creation of industry standards, Federal Aviation Administration rules and procedures, and other related regulations.