UK CAA Prepares a Flight Plan for UAM’s Take-Off
A consortium preparing for the implementation of urban air mobility (UAM) in the United Kingdom, which includes the country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Regulatory Sandbox published its Key Considerations for Airspace Integration within an Urban Air Mobility Landscape in October, 2021, as part of its Innovation Hub initiative. The Regulatory Sandbox aims to help industry innovators “increase their chances of complying with future regulations,” according to CAA.
The consortium driving the effort is comprised of Eve Urban Air Mobility, along with Heathrow Airport, London City Airport, National Air Traffic Services (NATS), Skyports, Atech, Volocopter, and Vertical Aerospace. Together, they plan to develop a concept of operations (Con Ops) for “safely integrating passenger carrying, piloted electric air taxis into the low-level airspace, with specific focus on the transportation of passengers from London City to Heathrow airport with stops in between.”
By focusing on the delivery of a proven framework to harmonize the essential elements of UAM – airspace, procedures, and infrastructure – the consortium hope to speed the adoption and implementation of the UAM ecosystem. Although the initial focus is on London, the project hopes it will be able to use what it learns and develop it for use across the United Kingdom.
The group identified three high-level stumbling blocks to UAM integration in the nation’s airspace:
- The challenges UAM operations at scale may bring
- Low-level flying in congested built-up environments
- Understanding the endurance capabilities of eVTOLs and how they will impact airspace integration
UAM Traffic Management
The CAA is proposing the Con Ops consider traffic management procedures which address maintaining safety levels in the face of the increased traffic density UAM will bring. Achieving those concerns may necessitate enhanced minimum equipment requirements, including cooperative surveillance and communication technology.
The CAA also recommend:
- Attention be paid to providing fair access to UAM/eVTOLoperators
- Controlling incidents which may involve controlled flight into terrain (CFIT)
- Loss of control in flight (LOC-I)
- Obstacle collisions which take into account permanent and temporary obstacles, (i.e., buildings and construction cranes)
- Risks to third-parties from accidents
- The implications of day and night operations
- Pilot and vehicle performance within the obstacle environment
- The aerodynamic effects of flying within close proximity to buildings and structures
- Minimum and maximum enroute altitudes for UAM vehicle aircraft
Keep Calm, Carry On, Expect the Unexpected, and Have a UAM Plan
The wake turbulence that UAM aircraft may cause while flying in confined, mixed-use airspace is another concern the CAA wants addressed as UAM takes flight in the UK.
As is the case with traditional aircraft operations, UAM operators must understand and be prepared to adapt to varying weather conditions, be they within or beyond the visual line of sight (BVLOS).
Aircraft noise has long been an important concern for aircraft operators, airport operators, and the communities in which they operate. So, it’s not surprising to learn the CAA also wants to understand the environment in the vicinity of landing sites, while en route, and the demographics of these sites, as well as how effected communities will be engaged in addressing noise concerns.
The CAA also wants to learn about the energy reserve needs under various flight and landing conditions; if conditions require an aircraft to deviate from its original plans, how ATM will need to respond, and how ground handling will be accommodated at alternate landing sites if conditions require a deviation from planned routes.
This much is clear: London’s famous, centuries-old hackney cabs are about to get hacked by tomorrow’s technologies.
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