From August 2nd – 3rd, the FAA hosted its AAM Summit in Baltimore, bringing together the broad spectrum of AAM stakeholders to collaborate and address challenges and opportunities in bringing eVTOLs and related innovations to market in the near future. Challenges addressed at the Summit included: regulatory uncertainty, standards harmonization, gaining public trust in new technologies (including autonomy), data transmission (ADS-B and radio spectrum), low altitude weather data, cybersecurity, and operations management (deconfliction with general aviation). Throughout the Summit, government and industry stakeholders alike emphasized that a whole of government approach will be needed to achieve this new era of aviation.

To address AAM challenges and ensure alignment and collaboration between government and industry, representatives from the FAA urged stakeholders to submit comments on DOT’s  Request for Information on Advanced Air Mobility (“AAM RFI”) by August 16, 2023.  Based on discussions at the Summit, some areas that industry stakeholders should consider commenting on include:

  • Vertiports: In September of last year, the FAA released interim vertiport design guidance. At the Summit, the FAA indicated it expects to update this guidance in 2024 and then publish an Advisory Circular by 2025. Stakeholder comments to the AAM RFI on vertiports could address a number of open issues, including harmonization of standards with other jurisdictions (e.g., EASA), eVTOL charging and facility power requirements, operational matters (e.g., deconfliction with general aviation in take-off and landing), and fire requirements. The FAA is also engaging with state and local governments on vertiports, and stakeholders should consider contributing updates from industry discussions with localities around planning efforts, zoning, permitting, etc.
  • Concept of Operations: In April, the FAA released its updated UAM ConOps v2.0.  At the Summit, the FAA indicated an update of the UAM ConOps is not expected in the near future, but it will be continuously incorporating comments submitted through the AAM RFI. Stakeholders should consider commenting on the operational scenarios and other technical matters in the ConOps based on industry experience from ongoing eVTOL certifications, testing, and other internal research to identify potential improvements to the next iteration of the ConOps.
  • Security and Cybersecurity: The Summit included several discussions of ongoing government efforts around security and cybersecurity requirements for AAM, including the DOT interagency working group (“IWG”) subgroup on security led by the TSA. TSA indicated at the Summit that existing cybersecurity requirements will apply to AAM, but the question of whether additional requirements will be needed is still under consideration. The FAA is moving to a zero trust architecture approach to cyber securing air traffic systems and critical infrastructure (i.e., assuming networks are compromised and authenticating all of a given application’s data). The FAA also emphasized the importance of industry sharing data for efficiency purposes and usage in managing the National Airspace System. Industry stakeholders should consider adding their views on potential future requirements, physical security at vertiports, and data management/sharing.
  • Community Engagement: Stakeholders should comment on ongoing industry efforts around fostering public confidence and support for AAM. Industry stakeholders at the Summit emphasized the importance of good public planning for integration of new AAM technologies, including transportation equity and accessibility, economic impacts, local hiring and workforce development, and environmental issues. NASA chairs the IWG Community Roles subgroup and published an Advanced Air Mobility Community Integration Considerations Playbook in May—another important area for feedback.

Speakers at the Summit from both government and industry expressed optimism regarding the progress to come in the next two to five years, while recognizing the broad range of challenges that must be overcome. Stakeholder collaboration and engagement, including comments to the AAM RFI, will be critical to ensure a whole of government approach is realized and effectively supports the introduction of AAM to the public.