[Title] Emerging modes of aerial transportation and associated opportunities
for the weather community
[Abstract] The aviation industry is exploring novel ways of aerial transportation for both manned and unmanned flights. In particular, unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and urban air mobility (UAM) are two prominent areas of active exploration, which NASA combines under the term Advanced Air Mobility. The former aims to deliver cargo (e.g., medical supplies) or gather intelligence (infrastructure inspection) while the latter targets aerial ride-sharing for urban and suburban people mobility in order to avoid grid-lock in surface-based traffic.
Technologies have advanced to the point where countless manufacturers are investing heavily into developing electrically propelled, vertical takeoff and landing, aerial vehicles (eVTOLs). Initial UAM flight demonstrations have already occurred around the globe in China, the United Emirates, the United States, and other places.
Demonstrations of UAS-based cargo delivery and surveillance applications are already quite common for both visual line of sight and beyond visual line of sight operations. Substantial research is underway to examine all aspects of UAS and UAM operations, including market potential and business viability, infrastructure requirements (which includes weather), passenger safety and convenience, air traffic management, and public acceptance issues, among others.
This presentation will take a look at the weather challenges for UAS and UAM operations at low levels and off traditional airports, and whether today’s weather guidance may be good enough to support eVTOL operations in all conditions. Particular challenges include winds and turbulence near complex terrain and nside the cityscape, especially around takeoff and landing sites, and the transition of eVTOLs from vertical to horizontal flight. Other challenges include ceiling and visibility, and hazards associated with thunderstorms and wintry/icing conditions. Notable opportunities may come from the envisioned, hundreds of low-level UAS and UAM flights, if those aerial vehicles were to carry meteorological sensors that could provide unprecedented weather data in real time to be utilized for monitoring current boundary layer conditions, validate fine-scale weather prediction capabilities for urban areas or complex terrain, and/or enhance such prediction capabilities through data assimilation.