Urban Air Mobility Airspace Integration Concepts

June 2019
Topics: Air Traffic Management, Airspace, Aviation Industry
Brock Lascara, The MITRE Corporation
Andrew R. Lacher, The MITRE Corporation
Matthew T. DeGarmo, The MITRE Corporation
David R. Maroney, The MITRE Corporation
Frederick A. Niles, The MITRE Corporation
Lakshmi Vempati, The MITRE Corporation
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Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is an industry term used to describe the system that enables on-demand, highly automated, passenger- or cargo-carrying air transportation services within and around a metropolitan environment. The industry vision involves leveraging new vehicle designs and system technologies, developing new airspace management constructs and operational procedures, and embracing the sharing and services economy to enable a new transportation service network.

Aircraft manufacturers and service providers expect to use electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) technologies to enable runway-independent operations. They also expect to operate with very high degrees of automation, up to and including fully self-piloted aircraft. Most operators envision an on-demand service, enabling growth up to 100s or 1,000s of simultaneous operations around a metropolitan region at altitudes up to 5,000 feet and speeds up to 150 knots. These aircraft would carry cargo or 1-5 passengers on short-range trips (e.g. less than 100 km).

These operational characteristics will prevent an immediate deployment of full-scale UAM operations since existing airspace procedures, regulations, policies, and structures will not necessarily accommodate the envisioned operations.  As an example, without an on-board pilot, compliance with visual flight rules and see and avoid requirements will not be feasible.  Most proponents propose operating at a limited scale, some even proposing to begin with pilots in the aircraft much like current day helicopter operations, until the necessary constructs evolve to enable high-density self-piloted operations.

This paper explores the challenges of integrating highly automated UAM operations into the National Airspace System (NAS). It then presents some operational concepts that could enable safe integration of UAM into the NAS. The described concepts are not intended to define the exact solution space for future operations. However, this framework can serve as a starting point for concept evaluations, which then inform the development of systems and solutions that enable initial operations.

 

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