Wisk Aero, a California-based manufacturer of passenger-grade air taxis, has joined forces with UK vertiport developer Skyports to explore how autonomous eVTOL operations can be safely integrated into the national airspace system (NAS). The two firms have released a novel Concept of Operations (ConOps) that outlines the upgrades, retrofits, and procedure changes that will be required for the safe transport of passengers in an autonomous eVTOL aircraft.
Though Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) services are expected to launch with piloted vehicles first, there’s broad consensus in the eVTOL industry that autonomy will play a critical role in both scaling operations and making AAM affordable for the masses.
But while the development of aircraft and associated technology has received significant attention from many players, the same cannot be said for operational considerations for infrastructure and other ecosystem elements.
As such, the Wisk-Skyports partnership is keen to evaluate the core areas where on-aircraft and on-infrastructure systems and hardware redundancy may be needed to maintain the safety levels achieved by piloted aircraft.
These include physical aircraft considerations (functions, capabilities, requirements, interfaces, and support), passenger accommodation, schedule management, ground operations management, final approach and takeoff management, navigational aids, situational awareness, contingency management, and airspace design.
The ConOps document, available to download here, identifies how autonomous eVTOL aircraft and operators will integrate with vertiports, including interactions with Providers of Services for UAM (PSUs). As Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk, explains:
It is critical that future operations are autonomous for safety, scalability, and affordability. With this ConOps, Wisk and Skyports are helping to define those future operations while ensuring the long-term success and full potential of this industry.
Duncan Walker, CEO of Skyports, adds:
It’s important that infrastructure built today can accommodate the aircraft of tomorrow. The ConOps and our continued work on the development of vehicle-agnostic vertiports and ground-based infrastructure will ensure that this industry is well prepared to safely integrate autonomous operations in the future.
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