What is the best way for a local government to integrate cargo delivery drones and passenger air taxi services into its existing civic transportation infrastructure? In the United States, five local and state governments will soon find out, with help from NASA.

Experts from NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) mission have agreed to work together with local governments on equitable and sustainable integration of drones with other transportation systems.

The collaboration falls under the wider umbrella of the Space Act Agreement, wherein NASA intends to share with partners its learnings about the challenges associated with planning for and safely operating new types of aircraft, including drones. The latest five agreements have been signed with the following government entities:

  • Massachusetts Department of Transportation
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation
  • The North Central Texas Council of Governments Department of Transportation
  • The Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of the Ohio Department of Transportation
  • The City of Orlando, Florida

Information exchange on Advanced Air Mobility

The plan is to conduct a series of workshops – roping in partners from airport authorities and operators, universities, vehicle and subsystem manufacturers, infrastructure providers, et al – and collectively work on updating local strategies and creating new policies that could enable AAM.

At least four workshops will take place place through the summer of 2022, addressing a wide variety of pertinent issues, such as:

  • Identifying a common set of terms to use in discussions and planning documents
  • Evaluating potential criteria that might be used in locating future “vertiports” for vertical takeoff and landing of drone taxis
  • Developing a “best practice” document around key topics that other states and municipalities might like to follow while formulating their own AAM tactics

Nancy Mendonca, NASA’s deputy AAM mission integration manager, explains:

What’s the best way for a local government to implement an AAM system that is equitable, sustainable, and integrated with its other transportation systems? Answering that is a big part of what this is all about. We also hope these workshops and any subsequent best practices that are identified will address successful methods for engaging the public in the planning process and generating support for AAM in their communities.

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