Airport Business

APR 2018

The airport professional's source for airport industry news, articles, events, and careers.

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AIRPORT GURU passengers will be able to book electric air taxi flights using mobile app technology and have the nearest vehicle sent directly to their location? Uber says it hopes to begin flying its aerial taxis – basically, small planes with wing-mounted propellers and vertical take- off capabilities – by 2020. The company has also announced three test sites, including Los Angeles, Dallas and Dubai. What does this mean for airports, and what are the challenges to enabling UAM? UAM CHALLENGES A primary challenge is how to safely integrate electric air taxis into the national airspace system. NASA hopes to use its work on integrating both large- and small-size drones to establish how to make using autonomous vehicles, electric propulsion and high density airspace operations in the urban environment safe and economically viable. For example, Airbus hopes to eventually make Vahana and CityAirbus autonomous to help facilitate safe operation in busier airspace, which makes the development of sense-and-avoid technology paramount. One of the most important certification concerns is whether the vehicles are safe to fly and land in crowded urban areas, especially during emergencies. The new technology must also meet all requirements for aviation safety and performance. For example, the eVOTL requires fast charging and higher density battery packs than are currently available for electrical vehicles. While the technology is being readily developed, it must still be proven safe. Airports must also address issues of operational infrastructure, such as the development of dedicated landing pads, maintenance facilities and charging stations. Can electric air taxis be accommodated at existing Part 145 repair stations? Does the airport have the capacity to accommodate the frequency and density of projected UAM operations? Are new FAA regulations, policies and procedures needed to ensure safe and efficient urban flight? At an even more fundamental level, one wonders whether the FAA will classify the operators of electric air taxis as pilots, and not drivers. In light of the global pilot shortage, airport operators must consider how the competition for limited resources will affect the aviation industry as a whole. Also, in terms of preserving airport safety and security, it must be determined who will manage and take responsibility and jurisdiction for passenger screening beyond the airport's perimeter fence, and at what cost. Finally, public acceptance of UAM operations presents a major challenge. While it is important to demonstrate safe operations, it is also critical to address any community noise or privacy concerns. Proponents say UAM will ease congestion on city streets, reduce noise and pollution, and improve the urban environment. However, developers of this new technology, as well as leaders of government, must consider how UAM operations will fit within the community landscape. COLLABORATION IS KEY Collaboration among aviation industry, business, civic and community stakeholders is needed to establish the feasibility for high density airspace operations in the urban environment, develop the infrastructure to make UAM a reality while also addressing the various concerns of members of the entire community. In addition to engineering and manufacturing challenges, new air vehicles require certification, air space regulation, air traffic management systems, charging stations and landing pads, not to mention trained pilots. The public also needs to be ready and receptive to traveling through congested cities in the air, rather than on the ground. As technology moves faster than policy, the research agenda must include how much potential demand there is for UAM and how to best deploy resources to meet that demand. The current administration has made it clear that the private sector will play a major role in addressing these issues. The concept of urban air mobility involves multiple aircraft safely operating within a city. (Yellow circles are vehicles with passengers; pink circles are vehicles without passengers.) Credits: NASA ABOUT THE AUTHOR Curt Castagna Curt Castagna, president and CEO of Aeroplex/Aerolease Group, is a member of the Los Angeles County Airport Commission, president of the Van Nuys and Long Beach Airport Associations, and a board member of the National Air Transportation Association. A certified private and instrument-rated pilot, he has instructed courses in aviation administration at Cal State Los Angeles for over two decades. April 2018 airportbusiness 45

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