Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Urban Air Mobility

Yesterday the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing on “Urban Air Mobility – Are Flying Cars Ready for Take-Off?”

As chartered, the purpose of the hearing was to learn about urban air mobility research and development efforts. The hearing examined the potential benefits and challenges of ‘flying cars’ or vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts from a public and private sector perspective, including discussion of when such technology may be commercially available.

Opening Statement by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas)
“Our focus today is on Urban Air Mobility (UAM), a concept that can include delivery drones and personal air vehicles as well as cars that can both be driven and flown. … Advances in lithium-ion battery technology, computing power and electric propulsion are providing companies with the tools they need to turn science fiction into science fact.  This is the first congressional hearing dedicated to the topic of flying cars.”
Opening Statement by Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas)
“A multitude of concepts for vertical take-off and landing vehicles, many of them fueled by recent advances in lightweight electric propulsion and storage capability, are being proposed with the goal of providing convenient urban transportation. If proven to be safe, such concepts could result in changing the way goods are delivered and people move around. In turn, the innovation generated from UAM may result not only in creating new jobs, but also in enhancing the productivity of workers in existing jobs. But as with any new technology, there are challenges to its implementation. This calls for a thoughtful examination.”

Witnesses:


Dr. Jaiwon Shin
Associate Administrator, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA
“The fledgling UAM market presents a unique opportunity for NASA to play a vital leadership role in enabling game-changing technologies and innovation that allow the U.S. aviation industry to continue to grow and maintain global competitiveness. NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) is exploring the most critical technical challenges facing this market, from safety, vehicle technologies, to operations, to identify where we can play the greatest role in supporting this new industry.”
Full Statement

Dr. John-Paul Clarke Co-chair, National Research Council Committee on Autonomy Research for Civil Aviation; College of Engineering Dean’s Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
“In the early 21st century, when surface and underground transportation modes are reaching their limits, and the costs of additional infrastructure are prohibitive, we are seeking to satisfy this need for speed by moving to the air. Rather than focus on the speed and other benefits afforded by UAM, I would like to focus my remarks on the challenges that need to be overcome, and the research that must be conducted to enable UAM.”
Full Statement

Dr. Eric Allison
Head of Aviation Programs, Uber
“Elevate is our future uberAIR product that aims to allow anyone to push a button and get a flight; to achieve this, we are developing a real-time, on-demand network of air vehicles to deliver time savings to riders on a massive scale.”
Full Statement

Mr. Michael Thacker
Executive Vice President, Technology and Innovation, Bell
“Today, advances in processing power, flight controls, electric energy storage and electric motors, to name a few, are informing a new breed of aircraft concepts.  Concepts that share the tiltrotor’s benefits of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) and high-speed flight, but also concepts that use much simpler propulsion systems, making them affordable enough for largescale commercial adoption.”
Full Statement

Ms. Anna Mracek Dietrich
Co-Founder and Regulatory Affairs, Terrafugia
“Highway traffic congestion has increased for the past three decades in all urban areas, costing the U.S. $160 Billion in 2014. Meanwhile, the nation’s general aviation airport infrastructure remains largely underutilized. The main reasons that personal aviation has not been a significant solution to transportation include significant training requirements, high cost of ownership, long door-to-door travel time, weather sensitivity, and lack of mobility at the destination airport. An innovative combination of driving and flying in the same vehicle or transportation system, particularly in an on-demand or frequently scheduled operational model, coupled with reduced or eliminated pilot training requirements, address all of these barriers and has the potential to be a contributor to the solution to traffic congestion.”
Full Statement


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