Last week, Boeing and their joint venture partner Wisk released a roadmap for transitioning to a future where automated and uncrewed aircraft can safely carry passengers and cargo in urban and suburban areas.

This so-called concept of operations lays out the technology, regulatory and social recommendations needed to deploy aerial mobility systems in the United States and also includes information on integration into the National Airspace System (NAS).

“We’re working to enable a future of aerospace that is safe, sustainable and at scale. Uncrewed operations will be fundamental to realizing that vision, and we have to exceed the current safety standards for the air transportation system,” said Brian Yutko, Boeing Vice President and Chief Engineer of Sustainability & Future Mobility.

The concept of operations begins by proposing bedrock principles for urban air mobility, including that flights should be safe and affordable for everyone. Additionally, the aircraft would be automated to reduce the load on air traffic controllers and pilots, and they would fly day or night under visual or instrument flight rules, and be supported by automated onboard and ground-based systems.

The summary paper of the progression from the current state to more autonomous UAM operations features more gradual changes of the current aircraft operations schema that currently exist; for instance, initial UAM operations will have pilots onboard; mid-term, pilots will support from ground stations, responsible for 2 or 3 UAM aircraft. Long term, pilots will be responsible for an even larger fleet of aircraft. The term “human-over-the-loop” was included in the study regarding the ultimate flight control responsibilities for aircraft that’ll eventually be mostly autonomous.

Boeing and Wisk say that evolutionary and pragmatic methods will be needed to make the vision of UAM a reality. This includes the creation of new infrastructure such as ‘vertiports,’ locations where UAM aircraft can take off and land, load and unload passengers, and receive services. Additionally, while the aircraft will be automated, Boeing and Wisk recommend the creation of ‘fleet operations centers’ where ‘multi-vehicle supervisors’ will monitor flights, implement air traffic control instructions to maintain aircraft separation, and ensure safe operation of the flight.

Additionally, the roadmap also outlines the variety of industry stakeholders that are essential to a successful deployment and maturation of the ConOps proposed. Existing airlines and aviation companies, such as United, Delta, American, Boeing, and Airbus will work in conjunction with specialty UAM/aerial mobility airframers, such as Wisk, Insitu, SkyGrid, Joby, Vertical Aerospace, EmbraerX’s Eve etc to develop the UAM environment of the future.

The ConOps also provides insight into the flight planning and operationalization of an autonomous UAM framework that includes new job roles, such as fleet operations managers and supervisors. While these titles traditionally exist in airline operations, their scope and types of challenges will differ to align with that of UAM operations.

Further, additional resources will be required for pre-flight planning, reservation booking system management, market demand aggregation, among other tasks. Other key responsibilities will include in-flight supervision and traffic conflict management.

Why it’s important: Boeing and Wisk’s ConOps represents a large volume of research and coordination from multiple industry leading partners that outlines the steps of a safe deployment of UAM operations in the United States by the end of the decade. The white paper and summary add detail to key functions of the UAM industry and operational environment that are required developments in the next 8 years, prior to 2030.

For more detail on ConOps, view the following resources:

Press release

Summary Paper

Full Whitepaper

Posted by Naish Gaubatz