• 787-8 Dreamliner

    Boeing

    Stock Code:
    BA

    Date Founded:
    1916-07-15

    CEO:
    Dave Calhoun

    Headquarters Location:
    Chicago, USA

    Key Product Lines:
    Boeing 737, Boeing 747, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Boeing 787

    Business Type:
    Planemaker

Boeing and its joint venture partner Wisk have released a roadmap for transitioning to a future where the aviation industry includes automated and uncrewed aircraft that can efficiently and safely transport passengers and cargo in urban and suburban areas.

The roadmap highlights the significant technological, regulatory, and social changes required to deploy Urban Air Mobility (UAM) in the US and how best to incorporate it into the national airspace system. As emphasized by Chief Executive Officer of Wisk, Gary Gysin:

“The important work we share today provides a stepping stone in advancing UAM in the US and the world. The vison we have outlined is the result of many years of collaboration with Boeing, the FAA, NASA and key industry stakeholders. As a result, this document offers the most comprehensive framework proposed to date with a vision for enabling UAM in the national airspace”

What would the future of uncrewed UAM be like?

While UAM aircraft operators will be approved under Part 135 or Part 121, flight operation rules will need to be modified to enable a safe evolution of the airspace for autonomous UAM operations. This includes new flight rules and lots of automation implementation, which Boeing’s concept of operations has laid out, in phases, Boeing and Wisk plan to incorporate UAM in the US and, later, worldwide.

Current & Near-term UAM

In this stage, Boeing and Wisk currently acknowledge UAM aircraft would need to have at least one onboard pilot who would engage with air traffic control via voice communications, similar to conventional aircraft scenarios. The UAM aircraft would also adhere to Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), following the flight plans provided by the UAM operator as air traffic control provides separation.

The UAM aircraft would also need the authorization to access heliport operations to land and take off from their surfaces. Fixed-base operators (FBOs) would then manage schedules and coordinate surface movement, similar to conventional aircraft scenarios.

Mid-term UAM

This is the evolution stage that the concept of operations is focused on. Using Safety Management System (SMS) principles, Boeing and Wisk are working with regulators on operational testing for the proposed mid-term and, eventually, the far-term state.

Under this stage, the UAM aircraft would be uncrewed, with only a multi-vehicle supervisor working with up to three vehicles. And instead of following VFR and IFR, the UAM aircraft would adhere to new published routes and procedures known as UAM corridors, which are also required for automated vertical guidance to the surface. Without pilots, the UAM aircraft would communicate with air traffic control via automated voice messages.

Discarding the need for heliport authorization access was also vital for this stage. Boeing and Wisk decided on ‘vertiport’ managers to control the surface movements and take care of slot allocations. The term ‘vertiport’ is described as fixed locations where the aircraft would take off, land, load, unload passengers, and receive services.

Graphic from ConOps showing a passenger's perspective

A typical operational day for an uncrewed UAM, from the passenger perspective. Photo: Boeing

Far-term UAM

Under this phase, nearly everything will have been automated, from air traffic management systems to enable a higher density of flights to automated flight planning, separation services and communications within the UAM corridors. The UAM aircraft would still have multi-vehicle supervisors, except the limit in this stage goes beyond three vehicles.

Given the stepping stone emphasized in the concept of operations, Boeing and Wisk have envisioned a clear and well-phased path for incorporating UAM in the US, as highlighted by Brian Yutko, Boeing Vice President and Chief Engineer of Sustainability & Future Mobility,

“By proposing bedrock principles for urban air mobility, we’re working to enable a future of aerospace that is safe, sustainable, and at scale. Uncrewed operations will be fundamental to realizing that vision, and we have to exceed the current safety standards for the air transportation system.”

Graphic of far-term UAM flight planning

This is how flight planning activities will be conducted in the far-term UAM stage. Photo: Boeing

What are the required resources?

While the stepping stones have provided a clear path, Boeing and Wisk have acknowledged that evolutionary and pragmatic methods will be needed to make the vision of UAM a reality. These methods include the need to create and build new infrastructures such as the vertiports, which would either be on the roofs of existing buildings or isong purpose built buildings or platforms.

And since the UAM aircraft and its operations will almost be fully automated, the companies have recommended the creation of a fleet operations center where the multi-vehicle supervisors can monitor the flight. The physical facilities will also be where air traffic control instructions can be implemented to maintain separation and safe flight operations. They will house the fleet managers responsible for fleet and resource scheduling.

The intensive use of automation means that Boeing and Wisk could have to source third-party service providers who will provide information, telecommunications, and ground-based solutions for the UAM aircraft to replace critical functions onboard pilots currently supply. These functions include datalinks, aeronautical data services, ground-based detection of conflicting traffic, and other services.

Overview of ConOps

The concept of operations outlines the critical principles and assumptions for UAM aircraft and its operational environment. Photo: Boeing

When could this become a reality?

The futuristic visions outlined in the concept of operations do sound interesting. However, Boeing and Wisk openly acknowledge that it may take several years of regulatory changes and acceptance before the world will see uncrewed UAM transporting passengers and cargo become a factual reality.

If and when the regulatory phases successfully pass, there will still be the issue of infrastructures to tackle, such as space required for vertiports and fleet command centers. And, of course, there is the tremendous financial investment required.

Source: simpleflying.com

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