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Recap: Safety and Advanced Air Mobility

Friday, December 15, 2023


Safety and Advanced Air Mobility 

On December 7, 2023, the U.S. DOT Volpe Center and FAA held the second program in its Up, Up and Away: Innovations in Advanced Air Mobility thought leadership series. The discussion focused on the safe integration of AAM technologies into the national airspace system (NAS).

U.S. DOT Volpe Center Director Anne D. Aylward opened and moderated the session. Speakers included: Derek Morgan, Chief Operations Manager, Aircraft Certification Aviation Safety, FAA; Cindy Comer, Director, Certification and Safety Management System, Wisk; Eric Allison, Head of Product, Joby Aviation; and Blain Newton, Chief Operating Officer, BETA Technologies.

FAA's Top Priority in an Era of Innovation 

As FAA looks to integrate highly automated electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft into the NAS in the coming years, ensuring safety of passengers and aircraft will be an ongoing priority. FAA is providing programmatic support, collaborating with national and international partners on projects and research, and working with eVTOL manufacturers to achieve safety standards.

Derek Morgan touched on FAA’s safety focus and vision as the aviation industry moves toward this new era of innovation, “For over half a century, the FAA and the Department of Transportation have been at the forefront of progress and aviation safety, and today in partnership with a mature, safety-minded industry, we’ve realized the safest era in U.S. air operations.”

Morgan continued, “That progress has resulted in technological advancements to reveal an all-new manner of air transportation. Advanced Air Mobility, in all its various forms from powered lift, electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft to fixed-wing, conventional take-off and landing aircraft—it represents a sea change in aviation.”

Safely Unlocking the Benefits of AAM 

Cindy Comer provided an overview of Wisk, a U.S.-based autonomous eVTOL aircraft manufacturer that is committed to safety and unlocking the potential scale, benefits, and accessibility of AAM.

“Safety is our absolute first priority,” remarked Comer. “We are designing our aircraft to meet and exceed in some places the highest possible aviation standards of safety,” she concluded. In 2022, Wisk was accepted into the FAA’s Safety Management System Voluntary Program, which will set the framework for a proactive safety approach. “We partner with the FAA and other regulators as well to talk about advancing safety in this industry, but also about how we are going to ensure that our aircraft is safe,” noted Comer.

"Ultimately the FAA and other regulators are going to determine the appropriate safety standard for this new type of transportation, and we fully support the FAA's safety continuum, and we are committed to meeting and exceeding these safety standards in as many places," she concluded.

Safely Meeting Demand in Urban Areas 

Joby Aviation’s mission is to enable the public to spend less time traveling and more time living, and they are accomplishing this with an eVTOL aircraft that will meet the demand of short-duration trips in urban areas.

Eric Allison discussed Joby Aviation’s focus and mission. “We know that something like 29 million trips per day are being taken in a region like New York, and most of them are short-range. Most of them are of that nature, less than 50 miles. And so, the opportunity for this space is absolutely immense,” remarked Allison. “And, we can make people’s lives better across regions like New York City, across the world. So, Joby is focused on building, not just the aircraft, but the overall service to make this possible,” concluded Allison.

Joby Aviation’s innovative approach to aircraft design has produced a lower-noise aircraft with larger payload capacity and greater range. “So, we’ve designed an aircraft that’s got a thousand pounds of payload for passengers plus a pilot. We think that’s really important to drive the economics,” noted Allison. He continued, “We can offer trips up to one hundred miles with this aircraft, at up to two hundred miles an hour, so we can save you time for where you want to go, and we can do it with this remarkably low-noise signature.”

Safety and Sustainability

BETA Technologies is following a similar approach to safety and innovation with the launch of electric aircraft that use zero-emission propulsion systems and a line of batteries that will safely, quickly, and efficiently charge the next generation of electric aircraft and electric vehicles.

Blain Newton touched on BETA’s mission when he said, “We’re really focused on delivering a holistic set of capabilities to our partners into the industry at large.” Newton continued, “We’re a company of aviators, but we know that to deliver a successful ecosystem, you need more than that. So, we also developed a peer-reviewed, industry standard charging infrastructure that is both interoperable, fully interoperable, and multimodal to support the missions that our customers will be flying.”

 Looking to the future, Newton sees great opportunities for BETA Technologies to continue working with FAA and partners as AAM follows an upward trajectory. “There’s multiple opportunities to improve and move towards a mission of decarbonized aviation, whether it’s through autonomous air taxi or the great work that Joby’s doing in urban air mobility, and we’re just thrilled to continue to push forward, very much aligned with the FAA’s goals of maintaining the safest air space in the world,” concluded Newton.


View the event recording for the full discussion.


Up Next

The next event in the series, Transformation: Urban Air Mobility Concept of Operations, will take place on Tuesday, December 19, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. ET. This session will feature Robert Pearce, Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD), NASA; and Steve Bradford, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Architecture and Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) Development, FAA. Paul Fontaine, Assistant Administrator for NextGen at FAA, 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.