National Academies Press: OpenBook

Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective (2023)

Chapter: Chapter 8 - Key Study Findings and Recommendations for Further Research

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Page 96
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 8 - Key Study Findings and Recommendations for Further Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26899.
Page 96
Page 97
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 8 - Key Study Findings and Recommendations for Further Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26899.
Page 97

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96 Key Study Findings and Recommendations for Further Research This study examines a wide range of issues associated with the rapidly advancing landscape of AAM. The accompanying Guide is intended to provide airport practitioners with insights on the current state of the UAM market and practical guidance to thoughtfully advance a business case and action plan for emerging UAM use cases under the prevailing environment of technical and regulatory uncertainty. The toolkit can help airport practitioners understand their readi- ness for UAM and find the appropriate resources within the Guide to assist in advancing their capability maturity. The research yields some overarching observations that airport practitioners should be aware of to enhance their understanding and preparedness for AAM. The following observations are based on a critical analysis of the different studies and reports reviewed as part of this research as well as on the results of several technical working group meetings and in-person interviews conducted with various industry stakeholders. • The market assessment shows substantial growth across UAM for Passenger Air Mobility, Air Cargo, and Emergency Services use cases. Growth in the Air Cargo market is expected to be more substantial in the near term (2025) but grow at a more moderate pace as it assumes a greater share of the parcel delivery market. UAM for Air Cargo is forecast to begin and mature earlier than Air Metro and Emergency Services, largely because of the lower regulatory barrier for drone package delivery than passenger-carrying flights. Air Medevac (as part of the Emergency Services use case) will trail behind Air Cargo but still promises substantial pickup compared to today’s baseline in the near term because of the combination of rural hospital closings and improvements in the efficacy of emergency trauma care. Air Medevac may owe some portion of its growth to the fuel savings it offers over legacy rotorcraft air ambulances. The research suggests that airports will play a vital role in supporting and advancing AAM use cases. • Ineffective community engagement can stall or prevent projects from proceeding. With just 25 percent of consumers admitting their comfort with unmanned aircraft vehicle technology, the widespread adoption of UAM will depend heavily on building public acceptance. Signifi- cant planning and coordination across a coalition of stakeholders will be necessary to execute a comprehensive public education and engagement strategy. • Many questions remain to be answered regarding physical and cyber security for the use cases presented in this report. These questions require further research to understand best practices that provide adequate security without impeding innovation. Extended security wait times at vertiports for quick-duration flights could negate the mobility efficiency that UAM could provide. Furthermore, prohibitive costs could preclude equity among passengers. While the cost for Passenger Air Mobility is initially shown to be higher, as operations scale, the research shows the price point could lower to be viable for a more significant customer pool. Nevertheless, cost assumptions and benefits within the business case should be carefully vetted and validated. C H A P T E R 8

Key Study Findings and Recommendations for Further Research 97 • Core challenges identified in the research include the rapidly evolving regulatory, technology, and aircraft prototype landscape that introduces uncertainty in planning for specific imple- mentation pathways. The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions to travel and industries. The full impact of this development on AAM and the products of this research is not yet known. • To operate efficiently, organizational silos between surface and air transportation entities will need to be addressed to support shared mobility between air and surface transportation. Barriers may also include organizational inertia and a reluctance to embrace change. Because AAM will be intimately connected to other modes for first-mile/last-mile connectivity, working across modal silos will be necessary. Given this uncertainty in the regulatory and technical environment, the Guide and toolkit were created as complementary companions to present key considerations deemed essential to support airports in navigating the UAM market and document the possible impacts of UAM use cases and applications on airport planning and operations. The Guide can assist airport practitio- ners as they engage in an iterative process to understand how this emerging marketplace should factor into their business plans, community engagement, master planning, and decision- making frameworks. The limitations of the study center around the limited deployment scenarios studied. Unique local dynamics (around regulation, technology direction, and economic need) could have a large impact on the implementation planning process and could not be adequately addressed in this study. Likewise, the literature and data gathered for this study offer conflicting accounts regarding the timeline and scale of operations. OEMs and services providers are hopeful that the timelines will accelerate, yet the airframe certification, infrastructure, regulatory, and local collaborative elements are moving at a slower pace. To help mitigate some of these limitations and assist airport practitioners in making informed decisions, airports could actively participate in working groups created for UAM initiatives through NASA, the FAA, and state and local entities to offer the “airport perspective” to facilitate meaningful conversations, share concerns, and help prepare for future advancements in technology. Further research topics that could complement this study include • Impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on aviation and its effect on UAM, • Systemic ways that surface and air transportation can collaborate for efficient multimodal transportation, and • Opportunities for general aviation airports to serve as AAM multimodal hubs or community centers for exurban and rural areas to revitalize these communities and bring additional eco- nomic activity and access to these regions.

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Urban Air Mobility (UAM), or its generalized version, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), is an emerging aerial transportation approach that involves the operation of highly automated aircraft for a safe and efficient system to transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes of airspace within urban, suburban, and exurban areas. UAM initiatives are advancing in many communities and will likely bring many societal changes.

The TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program's ACRP Research Report 243: Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective provides a comprehensive examination of the emerging UAM industry, with a particular focus on its impacts and opportunities for airports.

Supplemental to the report are an Airport AAM Preparation Checklist and a UAM Airport Assessment Toolkit.


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