What exactly is a Vertiport and how should the Vertiport technology be integrated into the current traffic infrastructure? More than 70 representatives from the FAA, NASA and industry gathered earlier this month to “refine a strategic plan that supports NASA’s advanced air mobility (AAM) efforts,” according to a NUAIR press release. “NASA awarded this critical mandate to Oneida County in August 2020 to conduct research into automation technology to support high-density Vertiport operations that facilitate the vertical takeoff and landing of large unmanned aerial vehicles in populated areas.”
NUAIR leads a project team that includes Deloitte, Boeing, Crown Consulting, Mosaic ATM, 5-Alpha LLC, the Helicopter Association International (HAI) and the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association (GAMA). The team worked together for 8 months and developed 3 reports: a trade study, the operating concept (ConOps) and the software architecture requirements for the Vertiport automation. At the March meeting, the project team brought together a wide audience of industry stakeholders to review the reports and discuss next steps.
What is a Vertiport? The necessary infrastructure for passenger drones
NUAIR explains exactly what a Vertiport is: “A Vertiport is a collective term for areas that have been specially designed for the take-off and landing of AAM aircraft, similar to a heliport is a designated area for helicopters. Dr. Marcus Johnson, High Density Vertiplex Subproject Manager at NASA, opened the event by discussing NASA’s entire Vertiport research plans, all based on the foundations developed in that first project, ”the press release reads. Robert Bassey of the FAA provided an update on the development and research of Vertiport standards and outlined several operational requirements for Vertiport facilities, including layout designs, electrical requirements, and safety requirements. The FAA and NASA meet regularly with the AAM industry to work openly together in building the future of public aviation. “
Michael Patterson, Systems Analysis and AAM ConOps Head of NASA, reported on the current maturity level of AAM and gave a detailed overview of what is required and what it could look like in order to advance to the “medium” maturity level. This plane would be made up of complex operations and automated systems made up of hundreds of simultaneous flights. Individual aircraft may have the option of being flown by an on-board pilot who is flown with simplified vehicle operations, or by someone at a “command station” who may be controlling or monitoring multiple aircraft at the same time.
Vertiports could be built on buildings, a hub like an airport, or, according to the press release, they could be designed with a bus stop concept: A simple “vertistop” would only be intended for drop-offs and pick-ups. “Air traffic will be a mix of piloted, semi-automated and fully automated aircraft with multiple Vertiport configurations depending on the location and type of operation.”
“We had a great turnout with solid support from NASA and the FAA. The interaction and back and forth between speakers and participants was amazing. ” said Jonathan Daniels, NUAIR’s chief strategy officer, Vertiport project manager and organizer. “It’s always important to break out of your bubble and get outside feedback from the industry stakeholders who will be part of this new innovative system.”
Miriam McNabb is editor-in-chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a marketplace for professional drone services, and a fascinating observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Author of over 3,000 articles focusing on the commercial drone space, Miriam is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam graduated from the University of Chicago and has over 20 years experience in high-tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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