FAA Starts Mapping Out eVTOL Integration


The first places most people are likely to encounter an eVTOL or urban air mobility (UAM) aircraft will be at the familiar places they now deal with conventional helicopters and aircraft, according to an updated airspace integration concept released by the FAA last week. The “Concept of Operations V.2 (ConOps V.2)” says that for the first while, as the fledgling industry gets going, it will fall under existing regulations and airspace designation. “Initial UAM operations are conducted using new aircraft types that have been certified to fly within the current regulatory and operational environment,” the document’s implementation scenario reads. After that, things get more interesting, however.

The next two stages of implementation give the eVTOLs progressively more segregation from the rest of aviation as they evolve into an interactive and self-supporting aviation ecosystem. Ultimately, the scenario sees “new operational rules and infrastructure facilitate highly automated cooperative flow management in defined Cooperative Areas (CAs), enabling remotely piloted and autonomous aircraft to safely operate at increased operational tempos.”

As the name implies, “ConOps V.2” is the second kick at the can for the agency trying to deal with what some predict will be a veritable swarm of electric multicopters buzzing around major cities. It builds on feedback from the first version and fleshes out the overall concept without getting into the weeds of operational and regulatory necessities. “It does not prescribe specific solutions, detailed operational procedures, or implementation methods except as examples to support a fuller understanding of the elements associated with UAM operations,” the introduction says. The full document runs 32 pages.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • How’s that going to work in big cities? You know, the ones where many of the buildings are taller than that, and where people are more likely to actually expect to use these things? And what about using these things for transportation to and from commercial airports? Or how about airspace like near me where it isn’t unusual to have crop dusters operating in and under the Class C airspace, not to mention hills and plenty of 300ft tall towers? And let’s not forget that all of the current regulations have small drones (including Part 107 operators) down at 400ft AGL or less. Point being: I don’t see anything simple about adapting airspace regulations to accommodate any commercially-viable number of these things. Instead, I see a mess coming that could make GA flying, particularly “just for fun” local flights, even more of a hassle.

      • It will work fine. We are told that these things have splendid navigational systems, are an ecological solution, and are in high demanded. What objection, therefore, would any civic minded person have against tech wonders saving the planet and navigating a hundred feet or more above ground traffic?

  1. Wait until people hear all the prop/rotor noise these things will make. All the NIMBY’s will shut this down or at least extremely limit them, just like all the noise haters have tried with helicopters.

    • In that case, users will need wide open areas where the UAMs can operate at a distance from homes.

      These are called “airports.”

      Frankly, I think eVTOLs and UAMs are going to be the saviors of General Aviation airports. Because Matt is right, the neighbors are NOT going to tolerate shrieking UAMs taking off from their streets at five in the morning.

      In addition, most cities are going to be quick to ban the vehicles from landing anywhere they wish…and there’s vanishingly few existing heliports in cities. Almost all are for dedicated operations, such as hospitals and TV stations.

      A good example is the Seqway scooter. These were going to revolutionize urban transportation as well. But many cities decreed they were motorized vehicles and banned them from the sidewalks they were designed for.

    • Nonsense, science is saving the planet and only “deniers” would be upset at the good works being done buy fuel saving aerial deliveries.

      • This saving is one of those working in mysterious ways. Technically, pipe dreaming is safest and saves the most fuel.

  2. Innovation is not synonymous with desirable. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. Drones are novel useful devices in some sizes and situations.

    Allowing the for profit innovators to propose an “answer” to what is a social problem (population size and location) is a poor solution. Occam’s Razor.

  3. Fully segregated airspace is the only way this works. Standby for Class U airspace, no aircraft below 500 ft with some narrow approach corridors to runways.

  4. Exciting times. The FAA will be birthing new airspace(s), entirely novel concepts, families of acronyms, and needing to employ a new generation of engineers to meet the challenge. There’ll be a new industry rising to make money on all these new means of air transportation. In the US, we need an FAA Administrator, and fast.

    • Wait, we don’t have an FAA Administrator?? How long has that been going on? What on earth will we do without one? Should I ground my aircraft?

  5. Time for FAA to get ahead of the game. Write a rule that goes something like this:

    “eVTOL or urban air mobility (UAM) aircraft may operate ONLY from control-towered airports and within the Mode C 30NM perimeters surrounding those Primary Class B airports which have them.”

    Major cities/urban areas (or Cooperative Areas, if it feels better) – check;
    Positive FAA control – check;
    Out of the way of much recreational aviation – check

  6. Yellow cab still shows up at the terminal when the weather is 200 1/2 or during TRWs. Will these gadgets have that reliability? How does the FAA propose to space and separate them.

    Seems like a green folly.

  7. As usual, the government has this all backwards. The process SHOULD go something like this:

    1. Certify these like any other aircraft–start with day VFR–then night–then instruments, THEN autonomous operation.

    2. Only when they have demonstrated the ability to integrate into the current airspace system will they be allowed to apply for the next assigned task.

    3. This is best done by having an operator at the controls initially, then moving to the next certification level–again, with an operator at the controls to monitor.

    4. Initially, non-revenue flight only–much like any other homebuilt.

    Let them do the operational experience in uncrowded spaces. In cities, they are still trying to get rid of helicopters–imagine having untested and unmanned objects flying overhead crowded cities–the very cities that are trying to ban MANNED helicopters! The nascent “industry” is getting ahead of itself in their “Jetsons” zeal. One step at a time!

    I’d start by certifying them for tasks in uncrowded areas–let them do crop dusting, for example–then perhaps heli-logging–then aerial lift (setting towers and air conditioners). Then move on to carrying passengers–operations to remote areas, and oil exploration platforms. Only after they have proved themselves safe and reliable will they be accepted for the more difficult tasks. Instead, government is trying to set regulations for something that doesn’t exist.