AOPA, a nationally recognized advocate and support network for general aviation, has sent a letter to NASA stating its interest in participating in NASA’s upcoming ‘Grand Challenge’ series.


AOPA is short for the Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association. The organization has existed since its founding in 1939 at Wings Field in Pennsylvania. Since then, it has grown to become a national support network and advocate’ for general aviation in the United States. Members of AOPA include many of the U.S’s private pilots.

AOPA seeks to collaborate with NASA

A crowd gathers for a short takeoff and landing demonstration during the AOPA Fly-In at Missoula, Montana.

AOPA has been a long-time advocate for the advancement and promotion of aviation. By seeking to collaborate with NASA on the Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge series, it has indicated its belief in urban air mobility as one of the next great steps in the aviation industry.

AOPA seeks to collaborate with NASA

An artist’s rendering of the future of urban airspace

While the specifics of the potential collaboration between AOPA and NASA is still unclear, particularly of interest to AOPA is the development of the shared urban airspace that NASA is working to create. Right now, that airspace is partially occupied by private ‘non-cooperative’ aircraft–this refers to aircraft that don’t emit an electronic signal indicating position. In the future, NASA may require all aircraft to transmit this information to an urban airspace management system such as Boeing and SparkCognition’s SkyGrid. This kind of information integration would be especially essential for autonomous aircraft / autonomous vehicle management. AOPA, meanwhile, has stated its belief that both co-operative and non-cooperative should be taken into account in future airspace.

AOPA seeks to collaborate with SkyGrid

Boeing and AI firm SparkCognition’s vision for urban airspace

Regardless, NASA’s upcoming Grand Challenge series is meant for all stakeholders in the future of aviation, which certainly includes members of AOPA. According to its recent article about Urban Air Mobility, AOPA “has long supported the safe integration of unmanned aircraft, safety being every bit as essential as integration”. This is a view shared of course by NASA and the FAA, and is the ultimate goal of every party involved.

As a reminder, the Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge series is designed to give aircraft developers a chance to flight test their vehicles, and begin working with NASA and the FAA to develop safety standards for certification. You can read more about the NASA Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge series here. The first Grand Challenge will take place in late 2020.

AOPA seeks to collaborate with NASA

NASA artwork for what the future of urban air mobility may look like

Why it’s important: With its letter to NASA, AOPA has shown that it is giving great consideration to the future of urban aviation. Of necessity, both private pilots in AOPA and unmanned aerial vehicles (possibly autonomous) will soon occupy the same urban airspace, making collaboration between the two organizations absolutely essential going forward.

Posted by Naish Gaubatz

One Comment

  1. The Emergence Theory— how birds fly in a flock, how fish swim in a school, how people walk through crowded intersections.
    The end users do not need bubble wrapped, airline industry death tolls while we sit in cars dying 40k per year in the US alone.
    NASA’s Highway in the Sky was the BS story for over a decade— now it’s this BS. Let’s get airborne and simply accept that YES— people will die. If it’s OK to die driving a car, then why not a PAV?
    The PAV’s are not an extension of the airline industry. They are a replacement of the current personal transportation system and the death tolls from cars should be the measuring stick. Not the airline #’s.
    I’d be happy to share a PDF copy of “Beyond Traffik” that expands on that and many other reasons that getting airborne Now— is worthwhile.


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