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Recap: Considerations for Equity in Advanced Air Mobility

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

On January 23, 2024, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center and Federal Aviation Administration held the fifth discussion of a seven-part thought leadership series titled Considerations for Equity in Advanced Air Mobility. This talk focused on the work of FAA, U.S. DOT, and aviation stakeholders to sustainably and equitably integrate Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) across communities through education, communication, and collaboration with state and local decision makers, urban planners, and the public.  

U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Anne D. Aylward opened the session by welcoming guests, providing a framework for the discussion and introducing speakers including, Yolanka Wulff, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI) and member of the FAA AAM Advisory Committee, and Okeoma Moronu, Head of Global Aviation Regulatory Affairs for Zipline International. 


Equity, a U.S. DOT Strategic Goal

During her opening remarks, U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Anne Aylward discussed how U.S. DOT is working to institutionalize equity across the Department’s policies and programs, with the aim of reducing inequities across the nation’s transportation systems in communities impacted the most. U.S. DOT is focused on addressing disparities across transportation and supporting projects that connect underserved communities and people to essential services like healthcare, education, and new employment opportunities. 

Aylward drew from one of the key takeaways from the recent U.S. DOT Project Delivery Center of Excellence thought leadership series on Delivering the Benefits of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — when transportation systems are designed with equity in mind, they aim to provide fair and accessible options for all individuals, irrespective of their socio-economic status, race, or location.  And, when equity is integrated into transportation projects, it enhances overall societal well-being by breaking down barriers and promoting economic development in historically marginalized areas.  


Identifying the Benefits and Opportunities of AAM

AAM has become a prevalent topic of discussion across the transportation sector, due in large part to a technology push in the areas of electronic propulsion, distributed propulsion, data networks, autonomy, and new materials, which have driven the development of new types of aircraft and aircraft systems. The Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI) works to connect communities and industry with the appropriate stakeholders to develop AAM that meshes with existing and future urban and regional transportation systems. 

“Advanced Air Mobility is a technology opportunity that communities can consider for future growth and transportation needs, and it is our opportunity collectively to look at the needs Advanced Air Mobility might address, and how Advanced Air Mobility might contribute to the overall transportation system,” Yolanka Wulff, CAMI Executive Director and Co-founder remarked.   

During her talk, Wulff spoke about expanding AAM across the transportation enterprise and the opportunities it may bring. “So, as we think about the possible potential benefits of AAM, again building that demand side equation, in particular in the context of equity, I think it’s important to understand that AAM has the potential to bridge spatial, topographical, and built environment gaps, such as water, mountains, and sprawling mega-ridges,” remarked Wulff. “It has the potential to reduce the mismatch between affordable housing and jobs, to expand access to employment and critical services like education and medical, to create new employment opportunities, and create opportunities for economic development to revitalize neighborhoods around vertiports,” she concluded.  


Saving Lives with Autonomous Drones

Zipline International operates in seven countries across three continents and has flown more than 60 million miles using autonomous electric drones to deliver critical blood and medical supplies, consumer products, food, and more. As Head of Global Aviation Regulatory Affairs at Zipline, Okeoma Moronu works alongside regulators, policymakers, and experts in emerging technologies to advance safe and reliable autonomous operations that benefit communities around the globe.  

During her talk, Moronu spoke about the impact Zipline is having across the world, particularly in remote areas. “For example, what we hear from our healthcare partners is how excited they are to get better health outcomes for their patients, and what our research has shown is that patients are 42 percent less likely to miss a vaccine in places where Zipline operates,” noted Moronu.  

She further clarified Zipline’s mission to deliver critical care and medicines to patients in need. “There are also 67 percent fewer blood products wasted at locations served by Zipline, and one of my favorite numbers is, there are 51 percent fewer maternal deaths due to postpartum hemorrhaging, “remarked Moronu.  

Zipline actively recruits from a diverse talent pool to attract a broader spectrum of people into aviation. This is essential for maintaining successful and sustainable autonomous flight operations well into the future. “At Zipline, what we do is partner with colleges and universities to create a pipeline of candidates who may not qualify for traditional aviation roles for a number of reasons, whether that’s an inability to meet medical requirements, or because they lack the resources to receive traditional training,” noted Moronu. “Due to the nature of what we do in drone technology, the automation and the knowledge of the operations, we are able to provide on-the-job training to lower the barrier for qualified, passionate individuals from marginalized communities to pursue careers in this field,” Moronu concluded.  


View the event recording for the full discussion.


Up Next

The next event in the series, International Collaboration in Advanced Air Mobility, will take place on Tuesday, February 6, 2024 at 1:00 p.m. ET. The session will feature Lirio Liu, Executive Director, Aircraft Certification Service with FAA, and Chris Carter, Director of the Asia Pacific Region with FAA. Annie Petsonk, Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at U.S. DOT will provide opening remarks.  

*The views of the speakers may not represent the views of U.S. DOT.


About the U.S. DOT Volpe Center  

Celebrating more than 50 years of federal service to the nation, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center’s mission is to transform transportation for all.  

We're Hiring: Learn more about our open job opportunities, our commitment to equity, and what it’s like to work at the U.S. DOT Volpe Center.