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NASA and Uber have teamed up for urban airspace modelling project

10/05/2018
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In an anticipation of the skies of the near-future being filled with flying taxis, drones and other ‘urban air mobility’ (UAM), NASA and Uber have joined forces to explore the technologies and challenges related to managing a bustling urban airspace.
NASA's definition of 'urban air mobility' is a safe and efficient system for vehicles, piloted or not, to move passengers and cargo within a city.
(NASA’s definition of ‘urban air mobility’ is a safe and efficient system for vehicles, piloted or not, to move passengers and cargo within a city. Image via NASA).

The agreement will see Uber sharing its plans for implementing an urban aviation rideshare network, whilst NASA will use the latest in airspace management computer modelling and simulation to assess the impacts of small aircraft- from delivery drones to passenger aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability- in crowded environments.

Uber’s urban aviation rideshare network was announced early last year and intends to have passenger VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft in the air by 2020. If all goes to plan, NASA will use the data gathered from this network to inform the development of airspace management simulations and models. NASA intends to simulate a small passenger-carrying aircraft as it flies through DFW (Dallas Fort Worth) airspace during peak scheduled air traffic. Analysis of these simulations will identify safety issues as these new aircraft take to the air in an already crowded air traffic control system.
An artist's conception of a future where different aircraft- vertical take-off, traditional take-off, crewed, uncrewed- safely perform a variety of daily missions in rural to urban environments.
(An artist’s conception of a future where different aircraft- vertical take-off, traditional take-off, crewed, uncrewed- safely perform a variety of daily missions in rural to urban environments. Image via NASA).

As more and more small aircraft enter the marketplace, NASA wants to ensure they do so safely, with acceptable levels of noise, and without burdening the current national air traffic control system. To this end, the agency is leveraging ongoing aeronautics research in areas including: Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) traffic management at low altitude; UAS integration in the National Airspace System; all-electric, general aviation class aircraft development; vertical take-off and landing aircraft; system-wide safety; and more.

Commenting on the partnership, associate administrator for NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, Jaiwon Shin, said:

“NASA is excited to be partnering with Uber and others in the community to identify the key challenges facing the UAM market, and explore necessary research, development and testing requirements to address those challenges. Urban air mobility could revolutionise the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smart phones have.”

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Tags: Engineering
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NASA and Uber have teamed up for urban airspace modelling project - Time to read 3 min
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