The future of vertical mobility at the Dallas Metroplex
They say everything is bigger in Texas. When it comes to drones and Advanced Aerial Mobility (AAM) nothing could be more specific. The country has placed itself high on the best list for opportunities and future-oriented initiatives. And Ernest Huffman, director of the flight planning and education program for the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), put it there.
The NCTCOG is a voluntary association by and for local governments to help with regional planning. The COG is the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for regional planning for all modes of transport that serves a 16-county region in North Central Texas, which is concentrated in the two urban centers of Dallas and Fort Worth (DFW). It spans 44 cities with a total population of more than seven million people. In addition to aviation, the swimlanes also include connected and automated vehicles, freight, emergency management and transit operations.
In the aerospace sector in particular, over 900 companies in the aerospace and transport industries call this region home and offer around one out of six jobs in the region. The COG‘He is also responsible for over 400 aviation facilities, including 31 national, public and internationally recognized airports.
Originally from New York, Huffman now spends his time in the DFW area, where he manages numerous programs for the COG, including the Aviation Education Initiative, the Regional Aviation System Plan, and the North Texas UAS Safety and Integration Initiative. Huffman launched the initiative to curb reckless UAS operations around the large volume DFW airport and promote the safe integration of UAS technology into its regional airspace. The group has now grown to over 300 public and private members, including government officials at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as members of global private aviation, the UAS industry, nonprofits, academia, and others.
The UAS Safety and Integration Task Force has four different working groups, including Education and Public Awareness, Legislation and Policy, Training and Workforce, and Testing and Integration (more on that later …). The Education and Public Awareness group hosts the popular monthly virtual . Maggie Schuster, CEO of Your Aerial View, leads this project (See previous coverage of Schuster ).
But bigger is better and Huffman, who received his BA in Aeronautical Science from Dowling College and his Masters‘s in aviation from the Florida Institute of Technology and more than 19 years in the aviation industry, has guided his team to focus on vertical mobility.
This May under Huffman‘s leadership that , “explore the potential of drone technology and incorporate it into future transportation plans. ”The NCTCOG was one of only five groups selected to conduct a review of cargo-carrying drones and automated air taxis in a series of at least four future workshops. “NASA will help us with all of these programs, ”said Huffman “They will provide intelligence on intellectual property, provide us with subject matter experts to connect the dots, guide us in our funding efforts and whatever other elements we need to be successful in the AAM space. “
This is big news as Porche Consulting predicts that by 2035 the vertical mobility market will be in the form of inspections ($ 34 billion) and support services ($ 4 billion). Texas hopes to unlock all of this and take many other benefits from vertical mobility over the next five years as well. Huffman and his team cite an Airspacelink case study that provides impressive statistics on the benefits of AAM, such as road / avoidance of up to 580 vehicle accidents per year and reduction of up to 113,900 tons of CO2 emissions per year, among others.
NCTCOG has planned the future of its vertical mobility ecosystem around four supply chains, a concept they adopted from Porche: Supply Chain 1 – AAM Ground Infrastructure – Vertiports and Multiports Buildings; Supply chain 2 – air traffic flow control; Supply chain 3 – eVTOL aircraft manufacturer; and Supply Chain 4 – operators of eVTOLS and sUAS.
“We didn’t initially think about integrating by focusing on supply chain development, ”Huffman admitted. “But now we are. “
Huffman and his team drafted a resolution in support of the safe and efficient integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area‘s Existing transportation ecosystem to accommodate the COG. to obtain‘s cities on board for the introduction of UAS and AAM technology. The 44 cities signed this in early 2021.
Within the next year, Huffman plans to introduce Public Safety Operations Beyond Line of Sight (BVLOS), remote human operations and a BVLOS training program for the COG‘s Unmanned Response Team (PSURT) for public safety. In 2022, he also plans to integrate BVLOS operations and synergies with other smart city initiatives, such as‘s Automated vehicle pilot program. Huffman also refers to this last attempt as the “Automated Vehicle 2.0 Program. ”The COG recently provided approximately $ 30 million in funding to develop driverless car pilot programs at the Metroplex.
The City of Arlington’s AAM pilot program in the entertainment district near the AT&T Stadium will include all of the aforementioned BVLOS initiatives through aircraft detection systems, networked micro-weather data for low altitudes, airspace management and ground-to-air situational awareness systems. The weather system will be part of a collaborative adaptive atmospheric weather radar system consisting of seven large radar towers that will provide up-to-date details to aid the drone and AAM communities. The endgame is not just to holistically network systems, but also to integrate multimodal traffic. “We hope to connect DFW Airport to the Dallas Vertiport and include one of the automated vehicle pilots in Dallas, ”said Huffman.
“Social engagement will also be a big part of it, ”he noted. “Social justice, inclusivity and accessibility will be a major focus for us. ”His team has just launched a new Community Integration Working Group (add this to the 4 above) to characterize community concerns, identify legal and political hurdles to be overcome for AAM and UAS and to facilitate complex operations and financing. As part of this, North Texas plans to conduct an environmental justice analysis for its Vertiports and create a scalable public engagement program that can help other states and countries.
For more information on the north-central Texas Government Council visit
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional marketplace for drone services, and a passionate observer of the emerging drone industry and 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 emerging technologies.
For advice or writing in the drone industry, email Miriam.
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