The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

On The Radar

New Concept of Operations Spells Out How Autonomous eVTOL Vehicles Could Operate Alongside Other Aircraft

It is not the first concept of operations (ConOps) to address plans for advanced air mobility services using eVTOL aircraft, but the document published by new partners Wisk Aero and Skyports appears to be the first to directly address fully autonomous operations produced for engagement with international stakeholders. In China, EHang evidently has had extensive engagement with the country’s regulators over its extensive plans for commercial aircraft with its EH216 and VT-30 families of Autonomous Aerial Vehicles.

The 32-page paper is not a pitch for Wisk’s business model, which remains something of a mystery to most outside observers, but rather a template for how groundbreaking autonomous eVTOL flights could get underway. It envisages a heady mix of autonomous aircraft operating alongside existing drones and also fleets of piloted eVTOL vehicles, based on assumptions mapped out in existing NASA maturity levels for the new technology.

Proposed infrastructure concepts are based on vertiports with six parking bays/gates for eVTOL aircraft and a pair of takeoff and landing areas. It is assumed that the aircraft would operate under FAA’s 14 CFR Part 135 rules, or equivalent international requirements. A more interesting, and possibly contentious, assumption is that AAM services would have to start with scheduled flights before the technology is ready to support scaling up to on-demand services.

The ConOps outlines considerations for the automation and data systems used to make vertiports function smoothly, as well as resource management and scheduling systems. It also considers in some detail how sensors and situational awareness technology would be used to process aircraft and airspace data to support safe operations.

Farther into the document, the Skyport and Wisk experts offer lists of the sort of skills needed to support every aspect of autonomous operations, mapping out a step-by-step guide to how each commercial movement would be fulfilled. They also discuss important considerations such as the security of the facilities and operations.