Technology is always changing and never static. This is especially true of NASA as they look to incorporate newer technology outside of the scope of space travel. NASA has been conducting tabletop experiments to explore options of safe air taxi flights for commercial use. Tabletop exercises are generally used in the military for strategy and cybersecurity response. Now, NASA is using these exercises to see if passengers can one day “hop across town or a neighboring city by using new highways in the sky.” NASA places priority for public safety and environmental safety.
NASA Reports how a tabletop exercise is conducted for these air taxi flights.
These tabletop exercises are unique, as they will bring together a vehicle developer, government researchers, and airspace service providers to address airspace automation concepts. Industry partners participating in these discussions include:
One vehicle developer: Wisk Aero based in Hollister, California
Five airspace service providers: Avision of Santa Monica, California; OneSky of Exton, Pennsylvania; SkyGrid of Austin, Texas; ANRA of Chantilly, Virginia; and Collins Aerospace of Charlotte, North Carolina
Two Command and Control Communications Service Providers: AURA of McLean, Virginia, and Collins Aerospace of Charlotte, North Carolina
Each tabletop exercise takes place on a video call and includes a realistic set of initial conditions for a flight plan. NASA subject matter experts, a vehicle developer, and additional partners who provide services such as airspace management and flight communications are each assigned roles in all parts of future AAM operations. These include the vehicle itself, vertiports, flight paths, air traffic control, weather, detect and avoid scenarios, and radio communication.
The scripted simulated flight scenario then proceeds, with live variables scattered throughout, prompting participants to find the best paths forward while gathering lessons learned – addressing issues years before pilots, passengers, or cargo are involved.
NASA will conduct a public awareness campaign as the air taxi flights are rolled out over the coming years. Lessons learned from the tabletop exercises will be brought to the public’s attention. Safety is the main priority for the public.
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