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NASA Launches Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge
  • 05 Nov 2018 05:31 PM
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NASA Launches Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge

On Nov. 1-2, more than 400 representatives from government, industry and academia gathered in Seattle, Washington, to attend an industry day marking the launch of NASA’s Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge plan.

Over the next few years, NASA will host a series of operational demonstration programs that will address known UAM challenges that will allow participants to learn from each other and collectively “raise the water level” together, explained Dr. Jaiwon Shin, NASA Associate Administrator, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD).

At the Industry Day, NASA and FAA representatives discussed the opportunities and challenges of the first Grand Challenge (GC-1), which is scheduled to commence in late 2020.

GC-1 is being designed to represent real-world UAM and help address barriers to certification and operational approval, as well as promote public confidence in UAM safety and facilitate community-wide learning while capturing the public’s imagination.

Highly motivated companies and organizations interested in participating GC-1 must respond to the NASA Grand Challenge Request for Information (RFI) no later than Nov. 16, 2018 at 2 pm PST (5 pm EST).

The primary goals of the RFI process are to:

  • Collect industry and broader community input to help refine and optimize the Grand Challenge to best enhance and add value to industry efforts in accelerating UAM.
  • Allow the government to assess the state-of-the-practice and state-of-the-art of the UAM ecosystem, including vehicle development, airspace capabilities development, and community integration.
  • Gauge the level of interest from the UAM community in participating in the Grand Challenge, their ability to bring vehicle, airspace and infrastructure assets, and their anticipated capabilities.

A separate document provides an overview of the NASA UAM Grand Challenge Scenarios.

For companies who plan to have a business model of passenger carrying aircraft, NASA anticipates providing a man-rated Airworthiness and Safety Review process even if there is no pilot onboard (either during the Grand Challenge or in anticipated future operations).

Airworthiness and safety of the vehicle will be evaluated by an independent review team based on the company’s derived standards, with NASA suggesting that the document AFG-7900.3-001, "Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review, Independent Review, Technical Brief, and Mini-Tech Brief" can be used as a reference for an airworthiness and flight readiness process.

The solicitation posted on FedBizOpps on Sept. 13 outlined the purpose of the meeting:

In order to most effectively advance UAM, NASA is planning to host a series of UAM ecosystem-wide challenges to promote public confidence in UAM safety and facilitate community-wide learning while capturing the public's imagination. NASA anticipates hosting the first of these Grand Challenges, GC-1, in late 2020. The GC-1 will challenge community participants to address foundational UAM ecosystem-wide safety and integration barriers in a robust and relevant environment.

NASA is seeking highly motivated industry participants with the desire of achieving commercial operating capabilities. The GC-1 would provide these participants the opportunity to demonstrate fieldable systems in a UAM representative environment. The GC-1 is focusing on demonstrating the safety and integration of UAM capable vehicles and Air Traffic Management (ATM) systems.

The RFI included additional details; excerpts follow:

  • “NASA believes that the Grand Challenge should have a wide range of participants including vehicle developers, airspace management system developers, and other UAM stakeholders including the general public, supporting infrastructure providers, standards organizations, local regulatory authorities, etc.”
  • “The FAA will provide recommendations, guidance, and coordination with NASA.”
  • “Vehicle and airspace participants will each be challenged to complete a series of common safety and integration scenarios. These scenarios are designed to represent real‐world UAM operations and barriers necessary for certification and operational approval.”
  • “GC‐1 is anticipated to provide a “proving ground” for vehicle developers to individually demonstrate the design readiness and robustness of their vehicles. The flight demonstrations from GC‐1 will help inform means and methods of compliance development with the FAA, standards development, desired future airspace services, and airspace management system requirements. Future challenges in the series are anticipated to directly address complex integrated system‐level scenarios necessary for UAM markets to be realized."

Links to original files

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