Urban Air Mobility (UAM) companies Wisk Aero and Alaka'i Technologies are teaming with NASA in its first partnerships to focus on the safe integration of autonomous aircraft systems into Urban Air Mobility applications at a national level.
The partnership is part of NASA's Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign strategy to develop key guidance for UAM operations, while addressing key challenges, such as certification and standards development, in an effort to accelerate U.S. leadership in emerging automated aviation technology. Specifically, the partnership will initially address critical National Campaign safety scenarios with a focus on autonomous flight and contingency management, including collision avoidance and flight path management.
"Our vehicle partnerships are critical to NASA and the industry success in AAM," says Davis Hackenberg, AAM mission integration manager. "These partnerships are the cornerstone of our data collection that will support standardization, certification and eventually the operational approval for safe and scalable UAM operations."
Wisk and Alaka'i Technologies signed information exchange agreements with NASA this year, which establish mutually beneficial relationships to accelerate AAM operations as part of NASA's National Campaign. Both partners now join other industry partners to prepare for the first National Campaign (NC-1) beginning in 2022 with intent to assess operational safety scenarios focused on their respective automation and vehicle designs.
Wisk's all-electric eVTOL air taxi and Alaka'i's eVTOL air taxi called Skai, are intended to be demonstrated during this series of flight testing and evaluation. Wisk's partnership with NASA is designed to emphasize their experience in eVTOL vehicle development and flight test, with a focus on a safety-first mindset toward advancing autonomous flight. Alaka'i brings new technologies that are highlighted by an eVTOL aircraft powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
The NC Integrated Dry Run Test in December is the first step of this campaign, which will use a helicopter as a surrogate UAM to develop a data baseline for future flight testing.
Following this testing, the developmental test in 2021 using partner Joby Aviation's air taxi design will include activities such as designing flight scenarios for the participants to fly, exercising range deployment and data collecting protocols to prepare for NC-1 in 2022.
These partners will focus on demonstrating integrated operations through flight activities with vehicles and third-party airspace service providers at various locations in the national airspace system around the country.
Both types of vehicle designs and propulsion systems will enable the National Campaign to continue its mission of engaging with diverse vehicle developers and manufacturers in emerging aviation markets for passenger and cargo transportation in urban, suburban, rural, and regional environments.
"Our partnership with NASA will bring together our market-leading expertise in autonomy with the unmatched technical capabilities of NASA," says Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk. "The frameworks and recommendations developed through this collaboration will not only advance autonomous passenger flight but also increase the overall safety of aviation."
Robert Pearce, Associate Administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, says, "Wisk brings a tremendous amount of experience in eVTOL vehicle development, automation technologies, and flight test, and combines it with a safety-first mindset towards advancing autonomous flight. NASA believes our partnership with Wisk will help accelerate the realisation of exciting new Advanced Air Mobility missions."
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