NASA and Uber plan tests to support future air travel over cities

Brittany A. Roston - Oct 5, 2019, 11:00 am CDT
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NASA and Uber plan tests to support future air travel over cities

Experts at NASA’s Ames Research Center will work alongside a team from Uber this week to run computer simulation tests of future air travel over urban environments. The tests will be conducted in order to get data on ‘certain things we already know and others we still need to invent,’ according to the space agency. The work is being done under NASA’s Urban Air Mobility program, which aims to pave the way for future drone deliveries and small vehicle air transportation over cities.

NASA partnered with Uber in late 2017 in order to help develop the software systems necessary to manage the drones and other small aircraft that will operate at low altitudes in the future. Such management capabilities will be necessary for delivery services that use drones, VTOL vehicles that will transport small groups of people over short distances, and more.

This budding air transportation system called ‘Urban Air Mobility’ (UAM) will manage systems over both large and small cities. The airspace management system will make it possible to operate these transportation services at a large scale, according to the space agency, ensuring there are no collisions and other issues.

The space agency says that Uber has shared its own plans for launching an urban aviation rideshare network, aiding the agency in developing its system. Under this work together, NASA and Uber will team up this week to run tests to figure out what information and data is needed for the UAM effort.

At this point in time, the teams aren’t going to put actual aerial vehicles in the air; rather, the effort will involve connecting NASA’s and Uber’s computer systems in order to run simulations of various scenarios that may one day involve these low-altitude flights. NASA says it will work with other partners on this project in coming months and years, as well.


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