Are airports ready to handle flying cars? This question was addressed by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) in response to the large-scale efforts by JetBlue, Airbus, Boeing, and others that have propelled the flying car and taxi industry to readiness before anyone expected. The ARMD has even created a new classification of vehicle specifically for flying cars and taxis – a UAM.
So what’s that? A “UAM is a safe and efficient system for air passenger and cargo transportation within an urban area, inclusive of small package delivery and other urban Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) services, which supports a mix of onboard/ground-piloted and increasingly autonomous operations”, according the research centers’ website.
The ARMD study is reflective of the level of interest in integrating flying cars with current aviation infrastructure to make the transition as seamless and efficient as possible. Here are the (condensed) questions to address in order to have effective UAM operation at airports:
- Landing Pads – Can existing Part 145 Repair Stations accommodate flying taxis? Most likely, although this area could be optimized by another FAA rewrite with perspective on UAMs.
- Airspace Management – Can airports handle the volume of planned UAM traffic into and out of airports? Companies like Airmap are already working on this.
- Policy/Regulations – Is there regulation and policy in place to support all of these developments? Recent Part 23 Certification overhauls by the FAA may help start the discussion.
Why it’s important: Because of the large scale investments in UAM integration at airports, you’ll most likely be flying either to or from an airport from an urban helipad in a flying taxi before you’ll be hopping from point to point within a city. The planned network of “vertiports” which are currently being optimized to facilitate short hops will require more integration than that of a conventional airport, and accordingly require more effort to satisfactorily integrate.