NASA Uses PC-12 for Advanced Air Mobility Flight Trials

 - May 18, 2023, 2:42 AM
NASA has equipped a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft to test cell tower signal strength. (Image: NASA)

NASA is deploying a Pilatus PC-12 for test flights in the Cleveland area as part of its work to pave the way for the autonomous operations envisaged for the advanced air mobility sector. The flights started today and run through June 25, with the agency’s pilots following roadways over Cleveland, Lodi, Mansfield, and Medina in Ohio to test communications technology expected to be used by eVTOLs and other new air vehicles.

The space agency's PC-12 has been fitted with monitors to measure cell tower signal strength at various altitudes in urban, suburban, and rural areas. It will fly no lower than 1,000 feet in populated areas and no lower than 500 feet outside towns.

Map depicting NASA's anticipated flight area near Cleveland, Ohio
NASA pilots will fly at low altitudes along roadways in the Cleveland area. (Image: NASA)

NASA is playing a leading role in U.S. government efforts to enable the development of new cargo and passenger air services. In 2022, it commissioned a study predicting that by 2030 there could be as many as 500 million package delivery flights in the U.S. each year and 750 million urban air mobility passenger trips.

Aircraft developers including Electra, Overair, and Supernal are involved in NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign. The agency has also conducted work on eVTOL noise levels, crash survivability, and vertiport operations, as well as autonomous flight safety with Xwing and Reliable Robotics, which are working to convert existing aircraft for remote-pilot operations.