NASA advances 1st Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge

NASA has signed Space Act Agreements with 17 companies in the aviation industry to advance plans for the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Grand Challenger, the first in a series of technology demonstrations, the company said.

The goal of the challenge is to test the capabilities and readiness of vehicles and systems that could revolutionize mobility in and around densely populated metropolitan areas.

When fully implemented, UAM will provide a safe and efficient system for passenger and cargo air transportation and could include such innovations as small package delivery within dense urban areas; personal taxi service by air; air medical services, such as patient ambulance transportation; and cargo delivery to under-serviced communities.

The NASA-led Grand Challenge series, which these new agreements support, will bring together companies intending to develop and/or operate air vehicles or airspace management services within the larger UAM ecosystem.

In addition to bringing together companies involved in emerging air transportation systems, the challenge will help ensure public safety by informing requirements for UAM operations and formalizing best practices to enable the development of regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration.

While the first Grand Challenge is targeted for 2022, several developmental testing activities are planned for this year. The first step involves activities — known as the Grand Challenge Developmental Testing (GC-DT) — that will lay the groundwork for the first challenge.

The goal of the developmental test is to assess the readiness of NASA´s test infrastructure while integrating a mobile operating facility and NASA airspace services. The test will verify relevant flight test scenarios, assist in data collection and assess readiness.

So far, 17 companies have signed Space Act Agreements with NASA to participate in GC-DT and activities leading up to the first Grand Challenge. With the agreements, which do not involve the exchange of funds, both NASA and the signing parties agree to provide resources to accomplish the goals of the testing.