On Nov 1-2nd in Seattle, NASA held an Industry Day to prepare over 400 stakeholders for its upcoming Urban Air Mobility ‘Grand Challenges’.
The Grand Challenges are partly aimed at inspiring the public, but will also put aircraft designs to the test in a wide variety of flight test scenarios including bulked landings, certain weather conditions, emergency landing situations, lost communications links, and normal operational flight.
Once vehicles have been approved for the challenge, NASA hopes that the event will lead for a regulatory framework for eventual certification. This both drives the industry forward, and means that any vehicle manufacturer who wants eventual certification should be at the 2020 Grand Challenge.
Manufacturer/Designers still have until November 16th to submit the NASA Grand Challenge Request for Information (RFI) if they wish to participate in Grand Challenge 1.
Guests at the November Industry Day also included companies developing key onboard systems, such as electric propulsion, detect and avoid or command and control; and providers of air traffic management systems for UAM aircraft operating over urban areas. NASA did not directly speak to how the Grand Challenge series compares to efforts like Uber Elevate, but NASA will be at the heart of certification and regulation issues.
In collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton Consulting, NASA believes that by 2030, there will be as many as 500 million flights a year for package delivery services and 750 million flights a year for air metro services.
Why it’s important: With many efforts to push the UAM industry forward, it’s can be hard to understand why having such a wide range of them is important. Right now, the two biggest industry-gathering efforts are from Uber Elevate and NASA. It’s important to note that these two organizations serve different purposes: Uber most likely seeks like to streamline the business execution of VTOLs for the public, while NASA most likely seeks more to provide a baseline for safety and push for certification. Ultimately, it’s important for anyone wishing to be in the industry to fully understand both sides.