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A Workshop That Worked
  • 13 Nov 2022 07:47 AM
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A Workshop That Worked

A review of the Vertical Flight Society’s 6th Workshop on AAM Infrastructure

By Rex Alexander, VFS Infrastructure Advisor

Key organizers of the workshop were (L-R): Clint Harper, Nancy Mendonca and Rex Alexander.

While conferences are a great place to deliver information and expose individuals to new technologies, workshops play an important role in advancing these technologies to the next level — the goal being to provide opportunities for more one-on-one collaboration, free and open discussions, and, most importantly, the identification and solving of problems. This unique and special atmosphere permeated the Vertical Flight Society’s most recent Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Infrastructure Workshop, the sixth event in the series that began in September 2019. Again this year, attendees admitted that is was quite refreshing to be provided the time and opportunity to actively participate in conversations and debate issues openly.

The theme for this year’s 6th AAM Infrastructure Workshop, which was held in Dayton, Ohio (as well as virtual), focused on vertiport site selection criteria and was largely based on the whitepaper, “Advanced Air Mobility Vertiport Considerations: A List and Overview,” which was presented at the AIAA Aviation Forum this past June; contributors included NASA, The City of Los Angeles, Urban Movement Labs and the author. The initial effort for this body of work was developed through NASA’s AAM Ecosystem Working Groups in October 2021, involving numerous subject matter experts who compiled a list of over 450 distinct considerations for the siting of vertiports.

The workshop worked better than most due to engaging breakout sessions.

Of particular interest at this year’s workshop was the inclusion of six one-hour breakout sessions that were modeled after traditional brainstorming sessions. Each session was facilitated by a subject matter expert for the topic involved, with attendees being provided the opportunity to delve into more granular levels of each subject. These special sessions were:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Equity Considerations
  • Vertiport Configurations
  • Safety Management Systems for Vertiports
  • Vertiport Architectural and Engineering Programing
  • Audience Driven Topics

The primary goal of these sessions was to provide feedback to NASA and other agencies as to where research and funding needs to be prioritized in these areas. Once the information from these sessions has been fully compiled and vetted, this data will then be provided to all attendees, VFS members and NASA.

The AAM tour of Springfield-Beckley Airport featured the Kittyhawk Heaviside, the morning after the company announced that it would be shutting down.

In addition to the aforementioned special breakout sessions, the workshop included some of the more traditional panel discussion formats. These included: Battery Charging and Infrastructure, led by Dr. Matilde D’Arpino of the Ohio State University; Local Perspective led by Clint Harper, AAM Program Manager at Urban Movement Labs; International Perspective, led by Dr. Fethi Chebil of VPorts; and Hydrogen at Airport and Vertiports, led by Arturo Garcia-Alonso of AVports.

The author was the primary organizer, in collaboration with Nancy Mendonca, Deputy of the NASA AAM Mission Integration Office, and the above-named panel organizers.

To cap off the two-day workshop, on day three, attendees were treated to a tour of the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport in Springfield, Ohio. There, they could tour Beta Technologies’ demonstration vertiport and flight simulator, which many had the opportunity to test. Additionally, attendees were provided a close-up tour of the airspace monitoring system known as SkyVision, a joint effort between the Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center, the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Dayton, and other partners. A Kittyhawk Heaviside and other aircraft were also on display.

More than 100 people participated in the hybrid event, which featured sessions like this one on hydrogen at airports and vertiports.

Further discussion and presentations were also provided, which included the Springfield-Beckley Airport future development plans, the Ohio UAS Center’s future goals, and the FlyOhio Community Vertiport Challenge.

All in all, the workshop was considered a resounding success by all who were in attendance, with many stipulating that they could not remember the last time they had such an enjoyable workshop or were provided so much useful and tangible information.

To learn more about AAM Infrastructure, including access to the recordings and presentations from past VFS Infrastructure workshops, go to www.vtol.org/infrastructure. Photos from the event, including speakers and the tour, are posted at www.vtol.org/galleryCheck out the galleries of the Workshop and the Tour.

About the Author

Rex Alexander has over four decades of military aviation, general aviation and commercial aviation experience, and is a globally recognized subject matter expert on helicopter, vertical lift and eVTOL infrastructure. He is the founder and president of the aeronautical consulting firm Five-Alpha (5α) and has served as the VFS Infrastructure Advisor since January 2019.

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