In recent years there has been a proliferation of new vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle concepts, many featuring electric propulsion systems and advanced autonomous capabilities, designed for the urban air mobility marketplace as air taxis and personal air vehicles. The Vertical Flight Society is tracking the progress of these vehicle concepts via a web portal that currently identifies over 130 vectored thrust, nearly 60 lift plus cruise configurations, and over 100 wingless multicopters. Many of these vehicles have flown as scaled proof of concepts, while several others are now flying as full-scale prototypes. These vehicles almost exclusively feature fly-by-wire flight control systems including advanced control modes (i.e., response augmentation), increased automation, and autonomous systems of varying levels. Following the Simplified Vehicle Operations (SVO) and progression of the UAM Maturity Levels (UML), technological, infrastructure, and certification advancements are required to ultimately lead to fully autonomous operations. Because of the complexities involved in control system design, autonomous systems, and operating environments, new certification means of compliance methods are needed to ensure safe operations within the national airspace, especially dense urban environments. To address this critical need, a team led by Systems Technology, Inc. (STI) proposes to develop the Simulation-based Automation and Failure Evaluations (SAFE) system, easily exercised via a tablet-based computer, that will provide a means of compliance certification method for autonomous and degraded modes that is safe, repeatable, and discriminating.
This proposal addresses ARMD Strategic Thrust 5 In-Time System-Wide Safety Assurance and Thrust 6 Assured Autonomy for Aviation Transformation as SAFE provides a certification process for autonomous systems. SAFE directly supports NASA’s RVLT Project and its goal to develop tools that “overcome key barriers to the expanded use of vertical lift configurations in the nation’s airspace.” SAFE is directly applicable to the National Campaign and its “goal to promote public confidence and accelerate the realization of emerging aviation markets...”
The target commercial market for SAFE is the burgeoning urban air mobility market. The estimated market size will be $15.2 billion by 2030. All the emerging vehicles that operate in the US will need to go through a certification process with the FAA thereby defining the market for SAFE, which will be introduced as a tablet-based software system as well as a productized service to support its use