Flight testing plays an integral role in successfully building, certifying, and fielding new aerospace systems.
Developmental flight testing assesses the airworthiness of the vehicle and explores the boundaries of its flight performance envelope.
Operational flight testing puts an air vehicle through extensive scenarios relevant to its intended application to understand how the vehicle, people, and broader systems and infrastructure best work together to ensure safe and efficient operations.
Air metro operations may well have their initial operational implementation with a pilot in the vehicle, working within existing regulations with regard to, for instance, “see and avoid” requirements and using the generally less sophisticated advanced aerial mobility traffic management infrastructure available in the early days.
The cargo transport market for remote areas or over water may represent such an opportunity for AAM, providing realistic operations in lower-risk geographical areas.
It frames many of the key seminal challenges that face this emerging market in a manner that makes them tractable and surmountable for test/implementation in a real-world environment—for example, reduced population density and minimal air traffic density.
This forms the basis of a risk-based approach that begins with vehicle operations in remote areas or over water, later incorporating vehicles with people on board.
Operations are then tested in more populated areas and last evolve to support passenger operations over urban areas.
Urban in UAM, can be:
- Intra-City: An operation within a single city, such as a short distance taxi service from one side of a city to the other.
- Peri-City: An operation between a city and a location outside of the city or vice-versa, such as a service between downtown and the local airport.
- Inter-City: An operation between more than one urban area, such as a service between two cities.
- Rural–Urban-Rural: An operation between two points crossing or circumnavigating an urban area that connected rural areas.
Here is a snapshot of how UAM is expected to be used over different zones (or distances) and styles of operation.
Zones of operation include: city center, suburbs to city, edge city to (edge) city, rural access, and hub airport access. Successful implementation of UAM will coordinate with communities' existing transportation options and provide additional options for routine, urgent, and emergency travel across a variety of distances using a variety of aircraft, each appropriate to a given mission and range.
City Center: Flights from vertiport to vertiport within a city center promise an alternative to sitting in dense urban traffic. Existing heliports and new infrastructure will support this type of operation.
Suburbs to City: Flights from suburbs into the city center provide an alternative to automotive commuting and can be used in concert with light rail and other options. Existing community airports can be used effectively here.
Edge City to (Edge) City: Smaller communities that need access to each other and to the main urban core can use electric aircraft in a regional aircraft "micro haul" model to enable rapid and green transportation of goods and people.
Rural Access: Remote areas without efficient ground connectivity due to geography or other constraints can benefit from UAM both for routine and emergency transportation using new and existing infrastructure.
Hub Airport Access: Access to main commercial airport hubs can also be facilitated with UAM with "micro haul" flights from community airports as well as eVTOL operations from other surrounding locations.
Styles of operation include: airline, air metro, on-demand (or "air taxi"), airport shuttle, and emergency services. Currently, on-demand operations are getting a lot of attention, but they are not the only way in which electric airplanes and eVTOL aircraft can be used to bring new transportation capabilities to our communities and daily lives. Different operating styles have different advantages, different regulatory requirements, and will use different types of aircraft. It is important that communities consider which styles of operation work best for their various needs and how each can integrate constructively into the existing transportation landscape through multi-modal connectivity. Whether a community favors public or private infrastructure and operations (or a mix) will likely also influence which styles of operation are appropriate.
Airline: Electric aircraft are being developed that will operate much like scheduled regional aircraft today, but with even more routes and smaller numbers of passengers on "micro haul" routes connecting smaller community airports.
Air Metro: Operating more like existing public transit on a recurring schedule and predictable route throughout the day, air metro operations integrate well into existing public transit systems and neighborhoods.
Air taxi: manned VTOL aircraft carrying humans along short routes, which are not serviced by conventional civil aviation operators.
On Demand: Often called "air taxi", this operation is similar to ride hailing apps in use today and would allow passengers to pool flights on their schedule. This requires a mature vehicle-to-vehicle network, air traffic control integration, and vertiport infrastructure.
Airport Shuttle: Connecting passengers to major commercial airport hubs, either through a micro haul airline connection or through a more distributed model, this type of operation is done by helicopters and buses today.
Emergency Services: The new eVTOL aircraft under development today promise to have faster response times, lower operating costs, and more targeted landing ability than the helicopters in use for medical flights today.
As UAM grows and matures, operations will likely evolve that are unique to communities and geographies, but these are intended to be a starting point for conceptualizing how the third dimension can better serve our transportation needs.
UAM Operator: Commercial stakeholder responsible for the practical operation of UAV and UAS.
Last Mile: In a product’s journey, it is moved from the warehouse shelf, to the back of a truck, to the customer’s doorstep—the final step of this process, known as the “last mile of delivery.”
While last mile delivery is the most expensive and time-consuming part of the shipping process, it is instrumental as it is the key to customer’s overall satisfaction.
Middle mile delivery takes products from a factory or port to a fulfillment center. Middle mile delivery uses technology to track vehicles, schedule deliveries, and determine the capabilities of the truckers and fulfillment centers.
Ameriflight is the nation’s largest Part 135 cargo airline. Founded in 1968, Ameriflight has grown from a small air charter and cargo service carrier to an international operator with 14 bases, 1,500 weekly departures, and 200 destinations. The company is headquartered in Dallas, TX and has more than 500 employees including over 150 pilots and over 100 aircraft. Ameriflight provides feeder services for overnight express carriers, as well as on-demand cargo charter services for customers with an array of priority shipping needs through its Expedited Supply Chain Solutions department.
Sabrewing Aircraft Company was founded in 2016 and built the prototype aircraft in Hayward, California. The Sabrewing team has over 78 years of aircraft design and manufacturing experience, and the flight test team has over 145 years of flight test and certification experience with the FAA, EASA, CAA, Air Transport Canada, and several other regulatory agencies. Sabrewing’s development partners have provided an additional 46 engineers of all disciplines, making the Rhaegal aircraft the best-designed, best-in-class vehicles in the sky.
Feb 2023 - Ameriflight Signs Intent to Purchase Agreement with Sabrewing Aircraft for 35 VTOL Air Cargo Drones
Ameriflight, the nation’s largest Part 135 Cargo airline, announces signed letter of intent to purchase 35 VTOL air cargo drones from Sabrewing Aircraft Company, Inc., a U.S. corporation designing and producing a new generation of regional cargo UAV that offers high-efficiency, all-weather operation with vertical landing and takeoff (VTOL) capabilities. The agreement is for the Rhaegal-A aircraft, also known as “Alpha”, the world’s best-in-class, highest fuel and maintenance efficiency cargo UAV on the market. Ameriflight expects to take delivery following type certification of the aircraft.
The Sabrewing partnership and Rhaegal-A purchase will enable Ameriflight to enter into new business opportunities in distribution center logistics. Using the VTOL capabilities to carry over a ton of cargo to off-airport alternative landing zones, the new cargo aircraft will allow Ameriflight to aid customers in developing a faster and more efficient warehouse distribution network. For Ameriflight, this will be a complementary service, not replacing their current flying operation, aircraft, or pilots. The company’s goal is to build diversified aviation services, and this fits well with that vision.
Sarah Nilsson, J.D., Ph.D., MAS
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