NASA plans to hold a series of “Grand Challenges” beginning in late 2020 for “Urban Air Mobility” (UAM) market entrants to promote public confidence in related new vehicles and supporting technology, the agency announced. “The vision to revolutionize air mobility in and around metropolitan areas is one of the most exciting frontiers in modern aviation,” said Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. “NASA is committed to working with our industry and government partners in any way we can to safely integrate these new options for passenger and cargo air transportation services into our skies,” he said.
The first “Grand Challenge” will demonstrate the “safe operation of a piloted or remotely piloted aircraft capable of carrying at least one adult passenger within a simulated, challenging urban environment.” NASA said it would allow parties to use the federal request for information process to indicate their interest in participating in the Grand Challenge and that responses are due by November 16. The responses, Shin noted, will also be used to refine and optimize the challenge to be helpful to the industry.
NASA said two recent studies it funded suggest a vibrant future for UAM. Crown Consulting predicts as many as 500 million flights a year for package delivery services and 750 million flights a year for air metro services by 2030, while Booz Allen noted the significant potential of UAM to transform the nation’s air transport system.