There is a strong emerging market for advanced air mobility concepts based on electric vehicle platforms. The Vertical Flight Society is tracking the progress of these vehicle concepts via a web portal that currently features over 140 vectored thrust, 60 lift plus cruise configurations, and approximately 100 wingless multicopters. Many of these vehicles have flown as scaled proof of concepts, while several others are flying as full-scale prototypes. While many of the concepts are envisioned to fly in an autonomous mode, the vehicles that will be certified by the FAA initially will all likely have pilot/operators on-board. Furthermore, these mostly electric vertical takeoff and landing concepts (eVTOL) will also likely feature advanced flight control concepts with highly augmented response types and a variety of cockpit control concepts from conventional helicopter to conventional fixed wing to unified (i.e., the F-35 approach). Given the industry push, these vehicles are clearly coming, but is the public ready to accept this disruptive technology? Besides the noise factor, which is not addressed here, there are safety and comfort factors to consider as well as a pilot pool that is likely to have less training and experience then those flying in the commercial transport market. To this end, a team led by Systems Technology, Inc. is developing the UAM Pilot Assessment Software System (U-PASS) toolbox that utilizes a Task-Pilot-Vehicle (TPV) approach to assess safety in terms of handling qualities and comfort in terms of ride qualities. By the end of Phase II, a prototype U-PASS toolbox will be available to support the design, analysis, and certification of UAM. Further, U-PASS can be used to enhance NASA’s FlightCODE (Flight dynamics and control modeling tool for COnceptual DEsign), an integrated collection of tools for the flight dynamics and control assessments of rotorcraft designs including eVTOL configurations.
The U-PASS toolbox directly supports the goals of the NASA Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology Project to “develop and validate tools, technologies and concepts to overcome key barriers for vertical lift vehicles” including the FlightCODE software suite. Furthermore, U-PASS will provide a means to support the NASA National Campaign, which will provide “valuable knowledge that will be given to the organizations working to establish the certification requirements and standards needed for the market to move forward.”
A study by Frost & Sullivan sees the UAM marketplace “expanding with a compound annual growth rate of about 46% to more than 430,000 units in operation by 2040.” There is a need for the new methodologies in U-PASS to support the design, analysis, and certification of these vehicles. STI has relationships with a number of these companies from which an emerging customer base will be established.