With its track record in aviation safety and innovation, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is one to watch when assessing the "barometer" of governmental AAM progress. On Wednesday of this week, the U.S. DOT published a request for information (RFI) on its development of a national strategy on AAM. The RFI falls on the heels of two other recent U.S. developments. First, the Acting Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a May keynote address that the FAA expects to issue its first eVTOL airworthiness certificate by Q3 of 2024. Second, earlier this month, the FAA released an "updated blueprint" relating to Urban Air Mobility (UAM). This blueprint focuses on initial operations occurring like helicopters today, scaled through the use of air corridors that will connect vertiports and airports.
Below, we focus on the U.S. national strategy for AAM, and what we can learn from the U.S. DOT document published earlier this week.
AAM national strategy update
The AAM national strategy will be produced by an interagency working group comprised of members from 22 federal departments and agencies, including the Departments of Transportation, State, Defense, Justice, and NASA. The U.S. DOT's recent document (RFI) seeks stakeholder and public comments on 20 topic areas, including:
- Descriptions of how AAM will be used and how the U.S. government can enhance or inhibit those use cases.
- How new concepts in aviation provide for or enhance the safety of operations.
- The AAM customer experience, including ticketing, vertiport experience, passenger and baggage screening and in-flight processes.
- Input on specific statutes and federal regulations that could be created or updated to support AAM.
- Infrastructure, including physical infrastructure (vertiports) and communications services (traffic management systems).
Other topics include supply chain, coordination within the U.S. and with international partners, privacy, workforce development, national security implications, spectrum use, and navigation. The RFI is part of the U.S. DOT's public engagement strategy, which we have discussed is necessary to enable AAM operations.
AAM Focus Areas
The RFI also sheds light on several of U.S. DOT's focus areas for AAM development. Specifically, subgroups have been created under the IWG mentioned above, informed by the specific expertise of certain departments and agencies. The subgroups will focus on:
- Automation, focusing on communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS) capabilities (led by NASA)
- Security requirements, focusing on resolving security concerns such as the errant and malicious use of AAM (led by the Transportation Security Administration)
- Air traffic federation, focusing on operations management needed to continue the safety of the national airspace system (led by FAA)
- Infrastructure development, led by the Federal Communications Commission and the FAA
- Community roles, led by NASA and the FAA.
Comments on the RFI are due to the U.S. DOT by July 17, 2023 through the U.S. government federal rule portal or via email (AdvAirMobility_IWG@dot.gov).