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Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) Integration

Description:

Scope Title:

Advancing Lidars for Use for AAM Operations

Scope Description:

Measurement of wind and turbulence is likely to be critical in realizing the proliferation of safe and efficient AAM. These measurements are needed in the AAM flight environment of the atmospheric boundary layer, where there is currently a gap in weather observations. Required capabilities are for wind profiles (wind vector vs. altitude) resolutions better than 1 m/s of speed, 5° of direction, and less than 5 m in vertical altitude increment. In addition, profiles of turbulence (quantified such as by turbulence kinetic energy, eddy dissipation rate, or structures) are needed. Since these wind parameters can be short-lived or spatially small, measurements are required with integration times on the order of seconds. Many research-grade studies and demonstrations have shown the capability of coherent Doppler wind lidar to make the needed measurements. However, existing wind lidar technology is bulky, expensive, and complex. Solutions are thus sought for improving the performance, size, weight, power, and cost of coherent Doppler wind lidar.

Both ground-based and airborne wind lidars are of interest. Ground-based implementations would be used at vertiport locations to monitor conditions aloft of wind and turbulence. Airborne wind lidars, with the lidar attached to a vehicle in flight, would be used to offer look-ahead measurements of wind and turbulence for possible avoidance or active-control mitigation actions. In either ground or airborne applications, laser eye safety is a critical requirement.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 3 to 6

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 08 Sensors and Instruments
  • Level 2 08.1 Remote Sensing Instruments/Sensors

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Research
  • Prototype
  • Hardware

Desired Deliverables Description:

Phase I deliverables should include an instrument system-level design and/or simulation study. In addition, a laboratory demonstration would be desirable for a critical component or subsystem that forms the crux of the system-level design. Phase II deliverables would progress to a system-level instrument for field testing of wind and turbulence measurements.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

Critical gaps in technology include:

  • Ground-based, upward-looking wind lidar system for profiling wind and turbulence of cost less than currently available commercial systems. Alternatively, lidars are of interest with performance exceeding current commercial systems in range capability out to 10-km distance in typical North American wintertime atmospheric boundary layer conditions.
  • Airborne wind lidar systems of size, weight, and power amenable to attachment to a variety of AAM vehicle types. A capability for wind measurements to at least 100 m of distance ahead of the aircraft is needed.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

Next-generation lidars will directly benefit the safety, scalability, and ability to incorporate automation within the AAM system.

References:

[1] National Research Council, Laser Radar: Progress and Opportunities in Active Electro-Optical Sensing (National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 2014). www.nap.edu/catalog/18733.html

[2] Button, Keith. "Weather Woes." Aerospace America, AIAA: https://aerospaceamerica.aiaa.org/features/weather-woes/

Scope Title:

Weather Measurement Network Design Tool

Scope Description:

Weather requirements for safe, efficient, and scalable AAM operations include the collection, translation, and usage of weather information exchanged between entities. As the lower-altitude air-mobility airspace where AAM operations occur is a highly dynamic environment in which conditions vary rapidly, both spatially and temporally, weather conditions will at times be an impactful and even significant hazard. Adequate weather information away from airports and in challenging environments (e.g., urban areas) is necessary to ensure conditions are captured in a timely and cost-effective way and that the conditions fall within regulatory and safety constraints. The specific weather information requirements (e.g., resolution, accuracy, precision, and refresh rate) for different parameters (e.g., temperature, wind speed, wind shear, icing, turbulence, and pressure) is highly dependent on vehicle specifications and type certification; vertiport location and configuration; and airspace procedure design, density of operations, and other factors. To address this dependency, the current draft of the ASTM Weather Supplemental Data Service Provider (SDSP) standard has categorized weather measurements into three tiers. Similar to Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) categories, weather measurements with the greatest accuracy are Tier 3, followed by Tier 2, and sensors able to make less-accurate measurements would provide Tier 1 information.

To effectively provide weather measurements to support AAM operations, sensors not only need to be accurate, they need to be cost effective. Sensor assessment factors include:

  • Number and types of measurements the sensor takes
  • Accuracy
  • Performance (e.g., temperature range -5° to 110° F)
  • Range
  • Latency
  • Reliability
  • Self-test capability
  • Number of operational constraints
  • Cost (purchase and operations)
  • Density to adequately cover an area considering siting limitations and micro-weather diversity and geography
  • Life expectancy
  • Data transmission path
  • Dependencies (power, internet, and computing power to process data to determine measurement)
  • In situ sensing (generally most accurate), remote sensing (less precise), derived (cameras)
  • Physical size and weight

Proposals under this scope shall propose a phased effort to provide a capability to design scalable, robust, and tailored weather-sensing networks. Phase I efforts would consist of two complementary efforts. The first would be to develop a catalog of available AAM sensors and technologies utilizing the sensor factors above. Part of this catalog would include hypothetical sensors/technologies and their parameters necessary to provide weather measurements for UAM Maturity Level 4 (UML-4)* operations in multiple environments. The other Phase I effort would be to develop the architecture and identify the needed data sources for a tool that could design a weather-sensing network composed of the real and hypothetical sensors. This tool could provide results tailored for specific localities and missions (e.g., RAM or LAM). The tool would also provide expected performance of the system over geographic areas (e.g., Tier 3 in areas of expected high density AAM traffic or Tier 2 in areas of less traffic density). The tool would also provide the expected cost and other parameters (e.g., the need for reliable wireless data networks).

Phase II efforts would be to build a prototype of the tool for a specific regional or statewide RAM instantiation and to enhance the catalog with additional real and hypothetical sensors/technologies necessary to make the resulting weather-measurement system cost effective and robust.

*UML-4 defined: UML-4 is characterized by medium total traffic levels, medium-complexity operations, and reliance on collaborative and responsible automation. UML-4 is anticipated to be enabled following several key regulatory changes that significantly increase the reliability of UAM transportation and its scalability. These regulatory changes would extend UAM operations into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and reduce the specialized skills and associated training needed by human pilots and controllers as high-assurance automated systems are trusted to perform selected safety-critical functions. At UML-4, UAM is expected to be practical in many U.S. metropolitan areas, not just areas with predominately visual meteorological conditions (VMC) weather. In addition, increasing economies of scale are expected to make UAM accessible and attractive to a significant percentage of the public for travel between high-density, origin-destination pairs (e.g., commercial airport to business district).

 

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 1 to 6

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 11 Software, Modeling, Simulation, and Information Processing
  • Level 2 11.5 Mission Architecture, Systems Analysis and Concept Development

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Prototype
  • Analysis
  • Research
  • Software

Desired Deliverables Description:

Phase I would provide the catalog of the sensors and the proposed architecture of the tool documenting the data sources needed, tradeoffs capable within the tool, and ability of the tool to address one or multiple AAM mission types.

Phase II would provide a prototype of the tool and a catalog updated with additional sensors.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

Weather Measurement Sensor/Technology Catalog: Current "catalog" does not exist. There are lists of available types of sensors (e.g., anemometers) but no comprehensive source that includes multiple parameters of those sensors, including costs and dependencies that could be utilized to design a network with desired performance at an acceptable cost. This catalog would also be useful to identify sensor and technology gaps for research and future SBIRs.

Weather network design tool: Several initial tools exist that are focused on weather-measurement networks to support small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS)* operations.  This effort would provide an opportunity to develop/expand those tools to RAM and UAM along with incorporating the concept of tiered weather measurement accuracy that's being incorporated into the draft UAS Weather SDSP standard.

*FAA 107-2 Advisory Circular definitions: 

4.2.6 Small Unmanned Aircraft (UA). A UA weighing less than 55 pounds, including everything that is onboard or otherwise attached to the aircraft, and can be flown without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft.
4.2.7 Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS). A small UA and its associated elements (including communication links and the components that control the small UA) that are required for the safe and efficient operation of the small UA in the National Airspace System (NAS).

Relevance / Science Traceability:

Airspace Operations and Safety Program (AOSP) - Air Traffic Management - eXploration (ATM-X), AAM, and System-Wide Safety (SWS) for use of sample datasets derived from proposed and/or actually built networks to support validation of airspace decision-support tools, airspace and aircraft automation capabilities, and to support development and validation of In-time Aviation Safety Management System (IASMS) tools.

Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program (TACP) - Convergent Aeronautics Solutions (CAS) catalog will inform with gaps in sensor technologies and areas for potential future CAS projects.

Advanced Air Vehicles Program (AAVP) - Revolutionary Vertical Lift Technology (RVLT) could utilize sample datasets to inform future work in the areas of ride quality and weather-tolerant aircraft.

References:

[1] Patterson, M. P.  “Advanced Air Mobility (AAM): An Overview and Brief History,” Transportation Engineering and Safety Conference, 10 Dec 2021. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20210024608

[2] Hill, B. P., et al. UAM Vision Concept of Operations (ConOps) UAM Maturity Level (UML) 4, 2020. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20205011091

[3] Antcliff, K., et al. Regional Air Mobility: Leveraging Our National Investments to Energize the American Travel Experience, 2021. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20210014033

[4] Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) Concept of Operations v2.0: Foundational Principles,” 2020. https://www.faa.gov/uas/research_development/traffic_management/media/UTM_ConOps_v2.pdf

[5] Levitt, I., et al. (2021). “UAM Airspace Research Roadmap.” NASA/TM-20210019876. NASA, Washington D.C. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20210019876

[6] Goodrich, K. H., and Theodore, C. R. “Description of the NASA Urban Air Mobility Maturity Level (UML) Scale,” AIAA Scitech 2021 Forum, AIAA 2021-1627. https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2021-1627

[7] NASA AAM Ecosystem Working Groups meetings and recordings. https://nari.arc.nasa.gov/aam-portal/

Scope Title:

Enabling AAM Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) Communications – Testbed

Scope Description:

The potential advantages of V2V communications have been widely recognized. The safety benefits enabled by V2V are called out in NASA’s Airspace Research Roadmap. Currently, many unknowns surround the implementation of V2V, including across standards, technologies, procedures, and policy perspective. As such, this area is viewed to have higher risk and a longer return on investment (ROI) compared with other areas within AAM. Consequently, this is an area potentially suited for a small business to have a significant near-term impact, allowing them not only to build a strong foundation in the area of V2V, but also to leverage that foundation to support entities building V2V capabilities in the future.

The expected Phase I effort would be to design a V2V communications testbed, and the Phase II effort would be to build a working prototype of this testbed.

The proposed effort can be focused on either sUAS or passenger-carrying-size electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL), and the proposal should demonstrate the proposer’s thorough familiarity with the current standards efforts in this area. At least two standards organizations are working in this area: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Working Groups 1920.1 (Aerial Communications and Networking) and 1920.2 (Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communications for Unmanned Aircraft Systems), and potentially the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) AAM Surveillance Spectrum ad hoc Working Group. The proposer should also demonstrate in the proposal familiarity with  and the intent to leverage other relevant V2V efforts (e.g., ground vehicles, robotics, and medical equipment).

Phase I specifics

The Phase I effort should result in a design and documented requirements of a V2V testbed. The design developed during the course of this effort should consider equipment, location(s), and architecture(s) required to meet the potential requirements of:

  • Standards organizations working to develop standards necessary to enable V2V.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) V2V-related research.
  • NASA’s airspace projects' V2V-related research.
  • NASA’s aviation safety project's In-time Aviation Safety Management System (IASMS) research enabled by V2V capabilities.
  • NASA’s automation research being considered for testing as part of the National Campaign’s Integration of Automated Systems (IAS) testing.
  • At least two potential vehicle operators (sUAS and/or eVTOL).
  • At least one avionics manufacturer.
  • At least three V2V academic subject matter experts.

The design should also consider costs (e.g., to build, operate, maintain, and evolve), portability (e.g., the ability to provide services in different locations), spectrum permissions, security, versatility (e.g., reconfigurable avionics or ability to simulate or incorporate the testbed into actual flight demonstrations), and opportunities for early commercialization.

Phase II specifics

The Phase II effort to build the working prototype should consider:

  • Near-term commercialization opportunities from the potential stakeholders interviewed during Phase I.
  • Opportunities to support standards development and research and reduce ecosystem ROI timeline.
  • Partnering with at least one vehicle operator to exercise prototype testbed.
  • Documenting which of the requirements identified in Phase I are achievable in the prototype testbed and those that would require further enhancement in a matured testbed.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 1 to 3

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 05 Communications, Navigation, and Orbital Debris Tracking and Characterization Systems
  • Level 2 05.XOther Communications, Navigation, and Orbital Debris Tracking and Characterization Systems

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Prototype
  • Analysis
  • Research
  • Hardware
  • Software

Desired Deliverables Description:

The Phase I effort under this SBIR would be to design a V2V communications testbed, and the Phase II effort would be to build a working prototype of this testbed.  More detail can be found in the scope description.

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

Advances are being made in this area in the fields of ground vehicles, robotics, and medical devices. While these efforts incorporate safety critical aspects, none are likely to combine those associated with aviation including passenger carrying flights over nonparticipating people and land, spectrum limitations and potential interference, stringent regulatory requirements for equipment and procedures, and the importance of ecosystem stakeholder support in the development of standards. 

The safety, efficiency, and scalability improvements possible with the implementation of V2V communications make this capability critical to achieving UML-4 operations.   

Current standards efforts are leveraging the advances mentioned, but the timeline for the ROI in this area still puts it beyond that of most larger companies. Additionally, the technical and regulatory uncertainty also increase the risk for this investment. The development and validation of standards will require sharing of some information that could be considered competition sensitive. A communications testbed requires resources and equipment challenging to obtain for resource-constrained entities. Lastly, to be truly impactful, some level of the results achieved during tests will need to be made available to standards bodies to obtain ecosystem stakeholder buy-in and validation of those standards.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

This effort would potentially support the efforts of ARMD's ATM-X, AAM, and SWS projects.  It could also inform the Sky4All effort along with efforts currently being considered such as support to firefighting operations.

The effort as described is a current gap in Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) research portfolio, and having a testbed in the 2024 and out timeframe would greatly benefit multiple research efforts.

References:

[1] Patterson, M. P. “Advanced Air Mobility (AAM): An Overview and Brief History,” Transportation Engineering and Safety Conference, 10 Dec 2021. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20210024608

[2] Hill, B. P., et al. UAM Vision Concept of Operations (ConOps) UAM Maturity Level (UML) 4, 2020. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20205011091

[3] Antcliff, K., et al. Regional Air Mobility: Leveraging Our National Investments to Energize the American Travel Experience, 2021. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20210014033

[4] Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) Concept of Operations v2.0: Foundational Principles,” 2020. https://www.faa.gov/uas/research_development/traffic_management/media/UTM_ConOps_v2.pdf

[5] Levitt, I., et al. (2021). “UAM Airspace Research Roadmap.” NASA/TM-20210019876. NASA, Washington, D.C. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/citations/20210019876 and https://nari.arc.nasa.gov/uam-research-roadmap

[6] Goodrich, K. H., and Theodore, C. R. “Description of the NASA Urban Air Mobility Maturity Level (UML) Scale,” AIAA Scitech 2021 Forum, AIAA 2021-1627. https://doi.org/10.2514/6.2021-1627

[7] NASA AAM Ecosystem Working Groups meetings and recordings, specifically Sept. 21, 2021, and April 19, 2022. https://nari.arc.nasa.gov/aam-portal/ 

[8] Chakrabarty, Anjan, et al. (2020)."Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) Communication for Collision Avoidance for Multi-Copters Flying in UTM -TCL4."

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20200001198/downloads/20200001198.pdf 

[9] Reliable, Secure, and Scalable Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) Options for Urban Air Mobility (UAM). 

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20205006661/downloads/UAM%20CNS%20Final%20Report%2080GRC019D0017%20with%20App%20A%20B%20C%20v2.pdf 

[10] Data Communications Considerations and Approaches for the Future, GAMA EPIC Data Communications Ad-hoc Committee Whitepaper, Version 1.0, March 2021.

https://gama.aero/documents/epic-whitepaper-data-communications-and-approaches-for-the-future-version-1-0-april-2020 

[11] Wing, David, et al. "Applicability of Digital Flight to the Operations of Self-Piloted Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the National Airspace System." 

https://ntrs.nasa.gov/api/citations/20210025961/downloads/NASA-TM-20210025961.pdf

 

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