NASA and FAA get set for giant leap in air mobility

Urban air mobility vision
An artist’s conception shows an urban air mobility environment, trafficked by air vehicles with a variety of missions and with or without pilots. (NASA Illustration / Lillian Gipson)

The rise of air mobility options ranging from delivery drones to air taxis and flying cars is shaping up as the biggest thing to hit aviation since the introduction of jet engines, NASA’s top official on aeronautics says.

“I happen to believe that this is a revolution coming in aviation,” Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics, told a Seattle audience this week. “But if we do not methodically practice our best practices and all the know-how in the aviation field, this could become a total disaster.”

To avoid that total disaster, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have set up a process called the Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenges, modeled in part on the DARPA Grand Challenges that set the stage for autonomous ground vehicles more than a decade ago.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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