Inflight connectivity group SmartSky Networks is joining forces with GE Aviation and Mosaic ATM to develop flight management systems (FMS) and air traffic management (ATM) capability for the advanced air mobility (AAM) sector. With backing from a NASA innovation award, the partners are looking at how they could more effectively connect airborne and cloud-based FMS to ensure that large numbers of eVTOL aircraft can be safely accommodated in public airspace.
The three companies say that what they call conceptualized cloud-based FMS would give air traffic controllers a better real-time trajectory of operations, supporting improved airspace management through expanded data inputs and processing capability. Their January 11 announcement did not say exactly what new product might result from their work or when it might be available. However, primary objectives appear to be to minimize delays in high-volume eVTOL air taxi services and reduce their environmental impact.
Speeding up access to data for controllers will be critical to safely expanding AAM operations, according to SmartSky Networks chief technology officer David Claessen. He predicted that the work with GE Aviation and Mosaic ATM would help overcome anticipated regulatory hurdles while maintaining a sharp focus on safety and expanding airspace management capacity.
GE Aviation navigation systems product director Gary Goz said that the FMS requirements of AAM companies present challenges related to the space, power, and processing requirements of the supporting equipment and systems. “By combining airborne and cloud-based FMS systems, coupled with a reliable, low-latency network, we can address processing needs and still meet critical safety standards for flight control,” he explained.
Meanwhile, GE Digital’s aviation software business is also seeking to contribute to the development of AAM by working with eVTOL aircraft developers, operators, and infrastructure providers to improve efficiency through processing large quantities of data. Joel Klooster, vice president for aviation software product management, told FutureFlight that the company is looking to apply products such as its network disruption tool for eVTOL air taxi operators, which like the airlines it already serves, need to be able to deal with hard-to-predict factors such as staff shortages and infrastructure problems.
GE Digital helped Uber with some aspects of its planned, but now abandoned, Elevate urban air mobility platform by looking at how flight safety might be monitored. Last year, the company signed a partnership agreement with Varon Vehicles, which aims to support eVTOL commercial services in Latin America. Its data services also include activities such as predictive maintenance, quality assurance, and fuel efficiency.