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Urban air transportation has been adorning everyone’s dreams ever since the Jetsons and maybe even before them. Companies across the world have been investing their resources to develop air traffic in cities to help improve mobility in urban transportation.
Back in October 11, 2019, NASA had announced its accepting applicants for its Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge. Now, NASA has signed the Space Act Agreements with 17 companies and startups from the aviation industry, including Boeing, Uber, and AirMap.
This move is aimed at finding air transport solutions and systems and bringing them to the densely populated metro areas through its grand challenge. Moreover, the challenge is expected to bring companies that are developing airspace management technologies together.
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The official competition will take place in 2022; however, signing the five-year agreement is the first step of the challenge.
Robert Peace, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics, stated that with this important step, they’ll be “continuing to put the pieces together that [they] hope will soon make real the long-anticipated vision of smaller piloted and unpiloted vehicles providing a variety of services around cities and in rural areas.”
According to NASA’s statement, once it is done, this new urban air mobility system can bring numerous advantages. Air transit can be used for things like taxi services, cargo delivery, air medical services, and taxi services to rural communities.
The challenge's first part will be done this year by testing development technologies. This will verify relevant flight testing scenarios and assist in data collection.
Each company will work on different parts of the project. There are three categories: Developmental Flight Testing, Vehicle Provider Information Exchange, and Developmental Airspace Simulation.
Vehicle Provider Information Exchange will be shouldered by Boeing, Bell Textron, NFT Inc, Prodentity, and Zeva.
Uber, AirMap, Airxos, Anra Technologies, Associates for International Research Inc, Avision, Ellis & Associates, GeoRq, Metron Aviation, OneSky Systems, and the University of North Texas of Denton will be working on the Developmental Airspace Simulation.
To tie it all together, Joby Aviation will focus on providing an actual vehicle to fly, which is the Developmental Flight Testing.
This is especially important since NASA grand challenge lead, Starr Ginn, stated that the challenge will allow US developed aircraft and airspace management service providers to try out their systems. Thanks to the challenge, this will be done with real-world operations in simulated environments.