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AOPA interested in Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge

NASA leading effort

With aircraft capable of door-to-door service just over the horizon, AOPA expressed interest in participating in a NASA-led collaboration of stakeholders that promises to do much to shape the future of urban aviation.

Image courtesy of NASA.

NASA created the Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge to invite everyone with a stake in the future of the National Airspace System to participate in the testing and evaluation of flying taxis, and the system that will be created to manage the airspace when cities start to buzz with a new kind of traffic.

Early prototypes of electric aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing have mixed in with the crowd at the world’s largest airshow, and AOPA has kept a close eye on the progress of ideas and technologies that promise to dramatically expand aviation’s role in daily life. AOPA Senior Director of Airspace, Air Traffic, and Aviation Security Rune Duke wrote Nov. 16 to NASA to affirm the association’s interest in participating in the collaboration, starting with the vehicle design phase.

By late 2020, the first phase (GC-1) will demonstrate safe operation of a piloted or remotely piloted aircraft able to carry at least one adult passenger in a simulated (and challenging) urban environment. Duke noted that current airspace users include private aircraft flown without broadcasting electronic position information known in unmanned aircraft airspace management circles as “non-cooperative” aircraft. (For illustration purposes, any single-engine piston aircraft flown without an electrical system or transponder of any type is a good example of what “non-cooperative” refers to.)

“We believe a successful demonstration must account for cooperative and non-cooperative general aviation aircraft flying in the same airspace,” Duke wrote. “Collaboration with other airspace stakeholders will be key to success.”

AOPA has long supported the safe integration of unmanned aircraft, safety being every bit as essential as integration. That view is shared by NASA, the FAA, and others who participated in a recent two-day gathering NASA hosted to kick off the UAM Grand Challenge. While many of the first rooftop-launched flying taxis will have pilots, the industry envisions increasing degrees of automation and, ultimately, fully autonomous aircraft that will fly in numbers over major population centers.

Duke volunteered AOPA’s considerable subject matter expertise to the NASA-led effort.

“We plan on supporting any and all entrants as a subject matter expert on general aviation equipage, aircraft and airman certification, procedures, regulations, and perspective,” Duke wrote. “As general aviation will frequently operate in the same airspace as a UAM operator, it is important we collaborate early in the process to identify challenges and solutions.”

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Advocacy, Aviation Industry, Technology

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