NASA is generally considered to be the US space agency, but its name also emphasizes another area of research.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is also the United States’ civil aerospace research organization. In this role, he was instrumental in the development of new technologies ranging from rocket engines to aircraft control systems.
Part of this role is to lead the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) campaign to test autonomous drone technology. The last milestone of this campaign was to test an electric vertical take-off and landing helicopter (eVTOL) intended for future use as an air taxi.
The tests, which run until September 10, use an unnamed eVTOL spacecraft from a company called Joby, which has been developing the technology with NASA for more than 10 years. The plane, which looks like a large version of a 6-rotor drone, will conduct flight tests at the Joby Electric Flight Base near Big Sur, Calif.
Video of Joby’s eVTOL air taxi Credit – Joby Aviation YouTube Channe
This is the first series of tests with this new type of aircraft. NASA has a rigorous test plan to perform, including collecting data on vehicle motion, noise, and communications in various forms of flight. To collect some of the data, the researchers had to develop a type of mobile acoustic center that could track the plane with 50 different microphones and collect data on the noise it would make.
Noise is a big factor in adopting autonomous VTOL flight – people have to accept it. No one would be happy for delivery drones to take off in their backyards if they created the same amount of noise in a jet engine. But public acceptance isn’t the only factor influencing testing.
Another is regulation. Although not directly responsible for regulating autonomous flights, NASA is a key partner of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Some tech activists have previously expressed concerns that the FAA will be obstinate when dealing with a rapidly changing industry, which could hamper the development of US companies as competitors in better regulatory regimes steal literally next to them.
NASA’s AMA efforts will inform FAA decision-making as it attempts to distinguish between reasonable regulation and enabling technology development. The next step in these efforts will be a set of tests known as NC-1. Scheduled for 2022, these tests will follow more realistic flight patterns and scenarios than those attempted at Big Sur in the coming weeks.
Ideally, the combined efforts of the U.S. government’s aerospace research and regulatory departments will result in a vibrant and disruptive industry that can improve the lives of its citizens. With any luck, one of the results of the vibrant and disruptive industry could be that staple of science fiction novels for over a century – truly safe, affordable flying cars.
This article originally appeared on Universe Today by ANDY TOMASWICK. Read the original article here.