GE Aviation’s Digital Group is working to develop a flight data monitoring (FDM) program to support Uber Elevate’s planned eVTOL aircraft rideshare service. The technology will form part of the safety management system (SMS) that Uber intends to voluntarily implement, and this will be based on the FAA’s Flight Operations Quality Assurance model (FOQA).
The two companies have been collaborating on the project for several months to develop the technical requirements to apply FDM and analysis to any of the eVTOL aircraft that will be used for the Uber Air operations, which are due to start from 2023 in cities including Dallas and Los Angeles. So far, Uber has selected eight manufacturers as partners to develop eVTOL aircraft for its program. These include Bell, Embraer, Hyundai, Jaunt Air Mobility, Joby Aviation, Overair, Pipistrel, and Aurora Flight Sciences (a Boeing subsidiary).
The plan is to use GE’s eFOQA software to process and analyze flight data to identify safety risks, determine root causes, and monitor corrective actions. Uber Air Part 135 operators would be able to standardize on a FOQA solution so that data could be comparatively analyzed and stored in GE’s secure servers.
The plan calls for Uber to have access to operators’ data collected through the eFOQA system as part of the contractual agreements under which they fly passengers booking through Uber Air. GE’s services team, as well as data scientists and safety experts, will support the program. According to GE Aviation Digital Group general manager Andrew Coleman, this approach will give Uber visibility on safety trends “in a manner that protects their partners and their personnel.”
The eFOQA software supports the FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing program, which uses aggregated data from multiple operators to address systemic safety issues in the U.S. National Airspace System. GE offers a similar benchmarking service to existing Part 135 commercial and Part 91 private aircraft operators through its cFOQA program.
“Safety is a core value for Uber Elevate,” commented John Illson, Uber Elevate’s head of aviation safety. “We are voluntarily implementing a safety management system and developing voluntary programs that have yielded proven safety benefits for the aviation industry.” This statement suggests that Uber will not mandate FDM for all operators.