Sarah Nilsson JD, PhD, MAS
Sarah NilssonJD, PhD, MAS

Community / People


AAM is a multidisciplinary challenge.

The system-level complexities are daunting in many respects.

Overcoming the hurdles will require collaboration between stakeholders from across different areas of specialty, both within and outside traditional aviation.

No single entity will solve all the issues ahead.

Government and private sectors will have to coordinate closely to enable each other and to achieve progress.



Aside from safety, one of the most important barriers to adoption of AAM applications and services is societal acceptance of this new technology and perception that the benefits it delivers outweigh the impacts it has on bystanders, the environment, and overall quality of life.

The public’s perception of the various contributing factors to acceptance is as important as the factors themselves, and the interplay between them is very complex and can be subjective in certain circumstances.

Environmental factors such as noise and visual annoyance from air vehicles to perceptions about privacy and a sense of trust in these new systems are all very important to plan for accordingly.


There is a perceived concern from the public about ride sharing in an aircraft with other unknown individuals.

Survey data show public reticence to the idea of flying without an onboard pilot.

There are overall personal security and privacy concerns among potential users of AAM.


The public brings preconceived notions about aspects of AAM that are important to consider.

Noise and annoyance from commercial airliners or consumer drones disturbing the peace for beachgoers may be the baseline experiences for forming perceptions about AAM services that remain only in the planning phase today.


Debates over privacy have impacted progress in early applications, including drones.


The number of state and local regulations in play have imposed a “patchwork quilt” of limitations and prohibitions, making expansion of AAM difficult.


Over time, the benefits to the public in overall cost and time savings as well as greater productivity and convenience could help overcome many of these concerns.


However, they do need to be addressed upfront and in a purposeful coordinated way.


Acceptance of autonomous operations at a global scale has been challenging. Regulators have differing opinions on the topic. Some oppose virtually any consideration of completely autonomous air vehicles, embracing the one- pilot-for-one-vehicle approach to operations. Others are more open in their acceptance, by balancing acceptable levels of autonomy in the operating environment with associated risk. Much of the disagreement stems from a lack of empirical data related to autonomous unmanned system operations specific to reliability and the actual risk it presents. Standards development organizations like the International Civil Aviation Organization, other interna- tional regulators, and air navigation service providers are taking a very cautious approach to high levels of vehicle autonomy. As a result, primary efforts driving discussion and research on the subject are being undertaken by groups such as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Future Airborne Capability Environment, NASA, and others.

Societal acceptance of AAM is a key factor driving the design and rollout of any AAM system.

Acceptance of safety is key, but many other factors beyond the technical attributes of the system will drive how the public perceives, accepts, and adopts AAM.

Strategically addressing the health and welfare, including psychoacoustic effects, of vehicle noise up front is a critical element for societal acceptance.

Addressing privacy concerns is also key.


Community acceptance of UAM operations is a challenge.

While demonstrting safe and reliable operations is critically important, it is equally important that vehicle operations do not create unacceptable community noise impacts, and that they fit into the urban land and skyscape.


Acceptance of advanced aerial mobility technology will be especially challenging unless significant coordination, education, and agreement is obtained with public and private entities.


New products or services applying advanced aerial mobility must gain the trust and support of the public, taking into account multiple factors.


Factors such as noise and visual impact from air vehicles on the environment and nonparticipants, as well as greenhouse gas emissions and any associated air pollutant emissions, will have to be minimized to acceptable levels.


Any successful approach to AAM will need the capability to scale as the market segments emerge and grow.


Flexibility - With any disruptive new initiative, flexibility is critical as new use cases and operational concepts emerge.


Public acceptance of AAM, particularly noise aspects and its psychological fac- tors, is perhaps one of the biggest challenges along with safety.

Failure to address these issues could hinder advanced aerial mobility implementation.

Noise from aircraft and other transportation modes is a complex topic spanning acoustics, the physiological way humans experience noise, and the psychological perceptions listeners have of the source of the noise and what it represents to them.

A large body of research spanning this area has been conducted over the past century, with learning outcomes relevant to modern aviation.

Early operations may start with a less intense acoustical impact on bystanders (e.g., less frequent operations in rural areas) and with strong positive social impact (e.g., emergency medical services, search and rescue, and disaster relief).

These applications can be a valuable test bed to learn and refine low-noise operations as well as to actively shape positive public perception of the technology.


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Community noise impacts from vehicle operations.


Feb 2023 -- A focus on noise reduction for eVTOL success


Noise from aircraft, and other transportation modes, is a complex topic spanning acoustics, the physiological way humans experience noise, and the psychological perceptions listeners have of the source of the noise and what it represents to them.


A large body of research spanning this area has been conducted over the past century, with learning outcomes relevant to modern aviation.

Admittedly, noise from AAM vehicles will be different from noise from commercial aircraft or helicopters. Many of these vehicles will be powered by electric motors, which will be inherently quieter than jet engines or rotorcraft.

However, aircraft noise originates from many sources including aerodynamic sources, propeller or rotor blades, and the complex and highly dynamic interactions between these.

Electric propulsion does enable new propulsion possibilities that promise to change the character of aircraft noise and to reduce it overall.

The degree to which this falls below the public’s threshold for annoyance remains to be determined and depends on additional operational and contextual factors.


Annoyance caused by noise is not strictly related to noise levels.

“New noise”—that is, noise in places where there was no noise before—causes high levels of annoyance to the public that experiences it.

So it is to be expected that the introduction of AAM vehicles will lead to annoyance and adverse health and welfare effects.

Understanding the nature of these effects is critical to successfully mitigate them.


Early applications of enhanced aerial mobility may include operations with a less intense acoustical impact on bystanders (e.g., less frequent operations in rural areas) and with strong positive social impact (e.g., emergency medical services, search and rescue, and disaster relief).

These applications can be a valuable test bed to learn and refine low-noise operations as well as to actively shape positive public perception of the technology.


AAM can bring about transformation in a number of industries (transportation, emer- gency response, and cargo/package logistics).

However, it is important to ensure that societal benefits and costs of AAM implementation are well understood using scenario-based analyses to assist, as all the applications will most likely not be evident until deployment is under way and users adapt to new capabilities.


Being able to communicate benefits will aid in public acceptance and community outreach.


UAM aircraft are designed to produce noise levels that are acceptable to the communities in which they operate, at levels of only slightly above that of ambient urban noise.

Aircraft noise is addressed primarily through advanced aircraft designs and the incorporation of noise-reduction technologies such as distributed electric propulsion and low-noise rotors.

Community noise is measured and considered in the context of a fleet in addition to a single aircraft. Noise standards at UML-4 dictate lower acceptable noise as compared to those utilized at UML -1, -2, and - 3 due to improved aircraft designs and operational procedures.



Supporting infrastructure and utilities required for UML-4 UAM operations into metropolitan areas have been developed (e.g., UAM aerodromes, CNSI, and energy infrastructure) and are an integrated part of the local power grid. 

There are multiple ownership and operation models for the supporting infrastructure, including public, private, and various forms of public-private partnerships, depending on the metropolitan area, local political leadership, operators’ business models, and other relevant stakeholders’ goals. 

Although UAM operations are tailored to the specific needs of each metropolitan area, commonalities such as UAM aerodrome design guidelines and high-power electric charging stations are the result of collaboration among federal regulators, the UAM community, and standards organizations. 

These commonalities enable the efficiencies associated with large-scale implementation.


This near-seamless integration of UAM into metropolitan life at UML-4 is the careful result of overcoming four key barriers with respect to community integration:

- obtaining public acceptance, including safety, public benefit, and environmental/community concerns; - supporting infrastructure, including utilities, data networks, and UAM aerodromes;

- operational integration, including UAM aerodrome location, safety and security of passengers and cargo, and resilience of the transportation network; and

- local regulatory environment and liability.


A profitable UAM market relies on public acceptance of where the aircraft operate. Public acceptance is significantly influenced by demonstrated safety as well as the balance of many factors, including public benefit (e.g., increased travel options, increased local economic activity, more rapid emergency response, etc.), and environmental and community concerns (e.g., noise, air quality, and privacy). Addressing and achieving these facets of public acceptance requireseffective engagement between the UAMindustry, regulators, and the community. Efforts to promote public acceptance began well before UML-4 and will continue through UML -6. By UML-4, successful UAM operators have developed effective community engagement plans that provide mechanisms for feedback from the general public. These may include public meetings, feedback surveys, familiarization seminars, and other means to receive feedback from the community on needs and concerns and 

this feedback is then utilized to addressconcerns and continue thepublic’s acceptanceof UAM operationin their locality.


Community Integration

- Public acceptance is dependent on the balance of effects, such as safety, public benefit (e.g., equitable access, increased travel options), community impacts (e.g., noise, visual impact), and environmental impacts (e.g., wind, air quality).

- At UML-4, the public view UAM as safe through successful demonstration of UAM aircraft at UML -1 through -3 and through successful pilot programs conducted by the government and industry.

- In addition to complying with regulations, the UAM industry builds confidence in the UAM system by being proactive in the identification of hazards and their safe resolution.

- In line with traditional aviation regulations for commercial air taxis, UAM operations will maintain a level of safety equivalent or better than that required for passenger-carrying, on-demand charter (Part 135) operations. More research and analysis are needed to discern the appropriate level of safety.

- The vast increase in anticipated flights and the increased risk to uninvolved people indicates the need for safety requirements that need to be identified through collaboration between the FAA and stakeholders.


- UAM stakeholders incorporate measures to ensure the safety and security of passengers, cargo, and UAM aircraft and the communities in which UAM aircraft operate.

- Mitigating the concerns related to adverse privacy effects of UAM occurs through effective community engagement and the mandate of privacy policies for UAM aircraft built upon those being developed for UAS today.

- At UML-4, UAM integration into a multimodal transportation integration requires addressing operations- related community impacts, including passenger/cargo security, protection from malicious use of aircraft and denial of service attacks, and graceful degradation of the existing transport ation ecosystem in reaction to disruption caused by UAM services.

- Advanced-security technologies expedite passenger and cargo screening. The transportation ecosystem will adapt, and mitigation strategies are put into place to account for service disruption s on any particular mode.


- The public benefit of UAM is firmly established by UML-4 through demonstration of multiple successful

business cases (e.g., emergency responder, air ambulance, and limited air shuttle).
- Employment by UAM manufacturers, fleet operators, SDSPs, and other tangential elements of the UAM

ecosystem creates jobs in both urban, suburban, and rural communities.

- Improved transportation options enabled by UAM enables commuters to travel farther, faster than ever

before, potentially reducing the congestion in urban cores and may spur business development in locations outside the urban core in response.

- It is recommended that industry and UAM stakeholders (including local authorities and local governments) conduct studies to identify UAM aerodrome locations and routes that maximize early public benefit and feasibility.

- The benefits of UAM may yield greater tax revenues and productivity increases, such as economic benefits derived from reduced transit time.

- As the UAM market expands at UML-4, it is anticipated that business economics will exert downward pressure on cost, further increasing public consumption of UAM services.


- Adverse impacts for UAM are mitigated by prudent and collaborative evolution of the system by the government and industry.

- At UML-4 technology evolved at sufficient levels to minimize the impact of noise.
- Federal regulators have established aircraft and fleet noise standards and work with communities to

limit the adverse impact of noise through operational modifications (locations where aircraft operate),

temporal modifications (operations), and other modifications to address community concerns.
- Aircraft technology continues to evolve throughout UML-4 leading to quieter aircraft at future UMLs.

- Fleet and flight operations management techniques by industry, working in concert with regulators, also evolve through this level to minimize community impact of noise.

- The supporting infrastructure for UAM will bring with it a number of additional community concerns, including land use, ground traffic management, utility infrastructure, emergency planning and evacuation infrastructure, noise, data access, and integration with existing operations.


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