NASA has opened the next round of collaborative partnership opportunities in its Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) National Campaign, as it looks toward National Campaign 1 (NC-1) in 2022.
NASA announced on June 24 that it is now accepting proposals for an information exchange from AAM vehicle developers that are interested in flying as part of NC-1. The solicitation is open to both U.S. and international developers of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft, with the exception of Chinese-owned companies.
Through the information exchange, participants will be able to provide feedback on proposed NC test scenarios, in addition to having their aircraft undergo a preliminary review by NASA for airworthiness and flight safety. NASA will issue announcements related to actual participation in NC-1 at a later date.
Formerly known as the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Grand Challenge, the AAM National Campaign was rebranded in March to be more inclusive of the various applications enabled by novel electric aircraft. In addition to the urban air taxi operations generally associated with UAM, NASA aims to encourage local missions in rural areas; intraregional operations between cities and between metropolitan and rural areas; and cargo as well as passenger-carrying ops.
The requirements for its latest information exchange reflect that broader focus. Participants’ vehicles are required to carry a payload of at least 190 pounds (86 kilograms, equivalent to one person) and have completed envelope expansion prior to the second quarter of 2022 in order to fly in NC-1. However, they can be targeted for either passenger- or cargo-carrying use cases, and can be VTOL or STOL (short take-off and landing) in design. They can have a pilot on board, be remotely piloted, or fly autonomously.
According to NASA, the AAM National Campaign series is designed “to promote public confidence in AAM safety; facilitate community-wide learning while capturing the public’s imagination; and give prospective vehicle manufacturers and operators, and prospective airspace service providers, insights into the evolving regulatory and operational environment.”
NC-1 will enable participants to demonstrate integrated operations in relevant scenarios that include two-way network flight plan communications; beyond-visual-line-of-sight operations; real and simulated vehicle and operations contingencies; dynamic traffic avoidance and trajectory management; and approach and landing in the presence of real structures, such as buildings in an urban environment with their associated mechanical turbulence.
NASA already has agreements with 17 companies for a developmental testing phase of the AAM National Campaign in advance of NC-1. These include California eVTOL developer Joby Aviation — the only company slated to fly an aircraft during this preliminary phase — as well as five other vehicle developers that are taking part in an information exchange: Bell, Boeing, NFT, Prodentity, and Zeva.