National Academies Press: OpenBook

Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective (2023)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Page 4
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26899.
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Page 4
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26899.
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Page 5
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2023. Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26899.
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Page 6

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4 Introduction This project provides airport industry practitioners with informa- tion on the rapidly forming Urban Air Mobility (UAM) industry and helps advise airports on items essential to preparing for this new industry. UAM is a subset of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)—a broad and emerging concept that includes both UAM and Regional Air Mobility (RAM) to provide a safe and efficient aviation transportation system to move passengers or cargo within and between urban centers and suburban areas and smaller communities. AAM uses various aerial vehicles. Most of them feature a fully electric or hybrid-electric pro- pulsion system powered by battery or hydrogen fuel-cell systems. Most of these vehicles also have vertical or short take off and landing capabilities. In general, AAM aircraft fall under one of the following three per- formance capabilities: • Vertical take off and landing (VTOL) aircraft: This category includes conventional (thermal) helicopters and electric VTOLs (eVTOLs) that can take off and land vertically. These vehicles serve aviation facilities of different sizes and levels of service: helistops, helipads, and heliports, sometimes referred to as vertistops, vertipads, and vertiports or vertibases in the context of UAM. Vertiport is a collective term referring to areas designed specifically for AAM aircraft to take off and land. • Short take off and landing (STOL) aircraft: These aerial vehicles can take off and land on short runways—typically shorter than 5,000 feet. Facilities specifically designed for the operations of STOLs are called STOLports. Besides the shorter runway length, they might feature unusually steep approach paths with atypical flight procedures addressing the surrounding obstacles and the need for mitigating noise in a dense urban environment. Existing STOL aircraft with conventional propulsion systems include the DeHavilland Canada DHC-8 and Pilatus PC-6. Most of these aircraft have slightly higher capacity and range than typical VTOLs. • Conventional take off and landing (CTOL) aircraft take off and land horizontally and require longer runway lengths. Many aircraft concepts developed for UAM have both horizontal and vertical propulsion systems or adopt a tiltrotor configuration (also known as convertible aircraft). These hybrid aircraft can conduct both VTOL and STOL operations. C H A P T E R 1 What is Urban Air Mobility? Urban Air Mobility (UAM) envisions a safe and efficient aviation transportation system that uses highly automated aircraft to operate and transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes within urban and suburban areas. What is Advanced Air Mobility? Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) encompasses the UAM concept but also includes use cases not specific to operations in urban environments, such as the following: • Commercial Inter-city (Longer Range/ Thin Haul) • Cargo Delivery • Public Services • Private/Recreational Vehicles Source: FAA 2022a.

Introduction 5 The goal of UAM is to provide on-demand intra-urban connections (see the Appendix for federal definitions of different types of operations). The United Nations projects that over 68 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050 (United Nations 2018). The technical and operational feasibility of UAM has already been demonstrated in a few large metropolitan areas (e.g., São Paulo, Brazil was accommodating over 400,000 conventional helicopter operations before the COVID-19 pandemic). UAM initiatives are rapidly advancing and have the potential to change future transportation options in significant ways. Technological advances and investments in lightweight composites, sensors, microcomputers, advanced battery technologies, and electric motors have ignited a new revolution in UAM-based transportation. These advancements can bring revolutionary changes and innovations in aviation (Goyal et al. 2021). UAM could be implemented at many more large cities over the coming decades using eVTOLs or electric/hybrid-electric aircraft that are significantly quieter, greener, and potentially cheaper to operate than conventional VTOLs (helicopters) and STOLs. The transportation industry has long sought ways to address the widespread and complex problems of how to transport people and goods in an increasingly congested surface transporta- tion system. UAM is poised to bring benefits to the air transport and surface transport sectors with the potential to change the way people live, work, and receive goods. Some of the goals for UAM are to • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions; • Increase the availability of lifesaving emergency services; • Provide transportation options that can travel across cities and states in minutes, not hours; • Deliver goods and services in less than an hour from source to consumer; and • Deliver needed medical and emergency services to those in need. Innovation inevitably raises questions about how best to integrate this new technology into a multimodal system or what changes it will create for society, specifically for airports. Airports create concerns about pollution and how it directly and indirectly affects health (Kurniawan and Khardi 2011). Further, because of past transportation mistakes regarding equity, segregation, noise, and congestion, there have been efforts to close airports in communities that do not see the full potential or benefits that airports facilitate. While many of these concerns are legitimate, there is a broad movement and hope that UAM can increase the benefits and reduce the negative aspects associated with the perception of aviation. UAM is one method that may facilitate new tech- nologies to transform the entire transportation system into a holistic, multimodal system to benefit society in multiple ways. One of the primary goals is to provide a more environmentally friendly transportation option to reduce air pollution and noise. No simple strategy exists to integrate the different transportation options that have traditionally worked in silos. UAM will require an extensive collaborative effort of communities, local cities, states, and fed- eral organizations to break down silos to work toward an efficient, integrated solution for multimodal transportation. Furthermore, it will be imperative to have strong community engagement in all phases of implementation to facilitate feedback from those affected by UAM—both positively and negatively. The global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has created many uncer- tainties over recent years. The aviation industry states the pandemic has caused the “worst year in history” as air travel was disrupted significantly beginning in 2020 (Richter 2021). AAM initiatives including UAM are not exempt from these disruptions; however, the same disruptions and challenges may also provide opportunities as the airline industry changes. These changes

6 Urban Air Mobility: An Airport Perspective may create opportunities for airport practitioners to begin discussions with the AAM industry to find common ground to advance operations and diversify their revenue sources. There may also be opportunities provided through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to facilitate funding of new technologies to modernize the current infrastructure system. The remainder of this document views UAM through the lens of three specific use cases: Passenger Air Mobility, Air Cargo, and Emergency Services. These use case categories are further broken down into subcategories, as illustrated in Figure 2. Figure 2. UAM use cases.

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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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