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Airspace management system

A sophisticated automation platform is required to support Elevate’s envisioned scale of operations. The platform must link Uber’s existing network of ground transportation options with new aviation operations to ensure the multi-modal journey is faster and more efficient than a ground-only segment. Airspace access must not be a barrier to the goals of speed and efficiency.

Uber’s concept for airspace integration

Uber Elevate supports the FAA’s concept for urban air mobility (UAM) operations, which extends the concept of operations for unmanned aircraft system (UAS) traffic management (UTM) to onboard piloted operations while preserving its interoperability with the existing air traffic management (ATM) system.

Under today’s “visual flight rules,” pilots are responsible for ensuring the safety of their operations and may fly relatively unrestricted in low traffic-density airspaces. This is how UAM aircraft will initially operate in such airspaces.

However, when these aircraft want to access busier airspaces, like those surrounding airports, they must coordinate with air traffic controllers. And when those airports become busy with traditional commercial air traffic, UAM aircraft may be turned away.

UAM aircraft need mechanisms by which they may access busy airspaces safely and with limited restrictions due to interaction with traditional air traffic control procedures or other airspace users.

Elevate is working with NASA and the FAA to develop these new mechanisms and show that they will preserve the safety of the National Airspace System and effectively integrate new UAM operations.

Elevate Cloud Services

A central aspect of the new proposed airspace management approach is the idea that third parties will provide airspace management services to aircraft. Uber Elevate is creating a suite of capabilities to do just that, called Elevate Cloud Services (ECS). ECS is Elevate’s automation platform that may serve as an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) service supplier (USS), for unmanned aircraft, or provider of services to UAM (PSU), for piloted aircraft in controlled and uncontrolled airspace. ECS provides additional functionality necessary to enable seamless multimodal trip integration and serve rider’s travel needs. ECS also works in concert with the aircraft operator and onboard pilot to ensure every operation is fast, efficient, and safe.

UAM airspace management

The FAA’s concept of airspace management for UAM operations envisions a shared set of responsibilities across pilots, aircraft operators, PSUs, and in some cases the traditional ATM system. This approach to enabling UAM operations at scale is is guided by the principle that these operations should not increase the workload of air traffic controllers, a key factor in determining the capacity of the airspace. Instead, a “federated” system allows UAM operators and their PSUs to grow commensurate with their ability to implement new services and demonstrate they are safe and interoperable with existing aviation stakeholders.

Skylane network

Elevate proposes the development of a dynamic skylane network that will place aircraft on repeatable, predictable routes between skyports. Aircraft operating on Elevate’s network will normally fly similar routes day after day, and the skylane network is a means of sharing this intent with other stakeholders. The geographic component of the network will be static over time scales of weeks or months, but certain routes within a network may be dynamically activated or deactivated depending on airspace conditions.

Airspace capacity

Skylane networks not only provide predictability to other airspace stakeholders, they also support a large number of operations in a relatively compact space. Although the required navigation precision (RNP) of UAM aircraft will vary by manufacturer and model, if they can achieve the RNP 0.1 that some aircraft already meet, a corridor only 1.8 nmi wide could support a bi-directional flow of 240 aircraft per hour. Stacking skylanes using altitude or improving longitudinal spacing could increase capacity even more. Rather than constraining capacity, skylanes and corridors are likely to be a key enabler to achieving airspace access at scale.