NASA begins several air taxi projects

28 April 2022
NASA is conducting projects focused on advanced air mobility (AAM) with one of these areas focused on vertiports as shown in this artist rendering. Source: NASA

NASA is researching advanced air mobility (AAM) vehicles and vertiports as potential use cases for future airspace travel and exploration.

NASA’s AAM division is researching where vertiports or vertiplexes — multiple vertiports near each other — will work into existing infrastructure such as airports and heliports. NASA is also investigating new landing areas that can be created from repurposed areas, purpose built sites or integrated into existing buildings such as train or bus stations.

Many of these AAM aircraft will be electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), aircraft that can take off and land vertically like helicopters or helipads. Early use of eVTOLS will occur using existing airports but in the future vehicles will be able to land on top of buildings or other spaces in crowded urban areas, NASA said.

Many of NASA’s projects will work on automation of these vehicles, reducing noise, developing vertiports and vehicle design as well as safety.

Vertiplex project

The High Density Vertiplex (HDV) project is to develop a vertiport automation system that will use small remotely piloted aircraft to see how vertiport automation can enhance safety and efficiency.

Initially, NASA will test smaller remotely piloted aircraft but will progress to larger aircraft as well as examine how vertiport, vehicle and air traffic management systems could interact, what hazards and contingencies are challenging and how pilots, vertiport managers and fleet managers could interact with the technology.

NASA will take the data from this project to influence research areas in vertiport automation systems and urban air mobility operations.

Safety project

NASA’s System-Wide Safety project will examine management systems aimed to reduce hazards and risks of vertiports. This could include risk and assessment of the performance of navigation systems.

The project will work with the HDV team to apply elements of this research to solve vertiport safety challenges.

Mobile vertipad

National Campaign is developing a Mobile Vertipad System that will test methods to ensure consistency of NASA testing at different partner test sites around the U.S.

The goal of this project is to increase safety and precision during testing where different aircraft could take off and land on the vertipad. The project will integrate different avionics technologies and sensors into the vertipad surface as well as weather reporting systems for wind direction, velocity and temperature.

Community integration

NASA said it will work with local communities, governments and companies to understand vertiport concepts, infrastructure and design.

NASA said it wants to map out new air transportation systems with community partners and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Once developed, passengers and cargo will travel on-demand via automated aircraft in cities, to neighboring cities or other locations that are traditionally accessed by car.

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