Get the Requirements Right and the Rest is Easy: Fast-tracking Next-generation UAM Systems
Written by Chip Downing
August 18, 2020
The excitement over Urban Air Mobility (UAM) systems is not only building steadily, but also global in its impact. At first glance, this seems like a short, easy step in terms of technology: simply build small air-vehicles that resemble automobiles and fly people in cities to their desired locations. But as one examines this further, as many now have, there are deep challenges to be addressed: Safety, security, regulatory, political, technical, financial, educational and operational considerations. To create an all-encompassing global solution for UAM deployment and the infrastructure to support it would take extensive research and development before a prototype could be deployed.
Rather than take on the whole world however, can we instead start with a strategy that solves regional challenges first? For example, could we start with a reduced set of requirements that enables the rapid deployment of UAM systems for specific use cases?
The answer is, of course: Yes. For starters, let’s look at what Varon Vehicles is doing in Latin America. This small startup is going ‘narrow and deep’ in its UAM prototype by serving only the largest cities in Colombia (Bogotá, Medellín, Cali, Barranquilla, and Cartagena), not the largest cities in the world. These cities are no wider than 16 miles across, versus 60+ miles across for large global cities, which reduces fuel, weight and performance requirements. In addition, the specifications are:
- Have UAM vehicles fly low and stay out of controlled airspace when possible. They would only fly in predefined air “virtual lanes”
- Use electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) platforms landing on vertiports rather than traditional airports, to reduce infrastructure footprint, vehicle costs and system investment
- Expand the use cases of business, personal, parcels, medical and tourism to create a viable business foundation
- Include an energy strategy as part of the support infrastructure, to increase reliability and efficiency and reduce grid demands
- Lead with obvious benefits in safety and security that characterize UAM transportation
- Focus on human adoption. Identify and respond to end users’ concerns
- Encourage private investment. All use cases must be financially sound, with minimum public investment
- Recruit global participation among experts from government and industry
To begin to roll out this vision for UAM in Colombia, Varon Vehicles is hosting a series of eight Think Tanks over the next few months to discuss Latin America use cases, air vehicles capabilities, UAM vertiports, regulation and certification challenges, insurance and liability reduction, and UAM air vehicle OEMs.
RTI is among the companies joining in the Think Tank discussions, along with Airbus, EmbraerX, GE Aviation, Hyundai UAM, Jaunt Mobility and KPMG, in order to bring to light the many issues in UAM vehicle development
RTI has extensive expertise in autonomous vehicle design and production. The RTI Connext® DDS framework is now designed into over 250 autonomous vehicle programs. It provides fast, scalable, reliable and secure connectivity within and between land, sea, air and space systems. Based on the open Object Management Group® (OMG®) Data Distribution Service™ (DDS) standard, Connext DDS supports both airborne platform industry standards and evolving autonomous industry platforms. Connext DDS can help accelerate UAM system development and the rapid integration of both new and legacy UAM assets.
I invite you to learn more about RTI Connext DDS capabilities for aerospace, and hope you can join me this Thursday, August 20, for the Think Tank discussion.
About the author
Chip Downing is Senior Market Development Director, Aerospace & Defense, Real-Time Innovations, Inc.
Chair, FACE Business Working Group Outreach Subcommittee
Vice-President, Ecosystem, DDS Foundation