NASA envisions ‘highways in the sky’ with air taxis and drone deliveries and will test new technologies in No – cleveland.com

Rendering of NASA's vision for Advanced Air Mobility, with its many vehicle concepts and potential uses in both local and intraregional applications.NASA
CLEVELAND, Ohio — In the next several decades, new types of aircraft will fill the skies to transport people and goods in ways previously thought to be impossible. A new era in transportation is emerging, one where automated aircraft drop off packages, taxi people across town and even respond to emergencies.
NASA’s vision for the future of aviation will require a very different infrastructure to enable the exchange of data between aircraft and air traffic control systems. Next year, NASA’s Glenn Research Center will begin flying a new Pilatus PC-12 aircraft around Cleveland to test new communication technologies.
The PC-12 will fly above Cleveland to rigorously test communication technologies in an urban environment.
“Actually it’s a great place to test. We’re the only NASA Center that’s located at a large, commercial airport,” says James “JD” Demers, chief of Aircraft Operations at Glenn. “We have all four seasons here. We need it to rain sometimes. We need to have foliage on the trees or snow on the ground. The communications may respond differently and we need to test to that.”
Rendering of a vertiport used for takeoff and landing of automated aerial vehicles.NASA
“The aircraft themselves serve as test facilities,” noted Bryan Smith, director of Facilities, Test and Manufacturing at Glenn. “We want to be able to offer our aeronautics and space customers the ability to test in different environments and test out their new ideas in those areas.”
In a future with a large number of autonomous and remotely piloted aircraft in the sky, connectivity is crucial.
“They all have to know where they are at all times,” said Tim McCartney, director of Aeronautics at NASA’s Glenn Research Center. “Imagine your cell phone when you drop service. You don’t want to do that when you’re flying remotely.”
NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility mission is to map out new air transportation systems alongside industry and community partners and the Federal Aviation Administration. These new capabilities would allow passengers and cargo to travel on-demand in automated aircraft across town, between neighboring cities, or to locations underserved by aviation today.
“In 10 to 20 years, what we see in the skies is going to look very, very different from what we have today,” McCartney said.
Experts are planning for a future where people will be soaring over traffic in air taxis; products will be delivered faster by remotely operated vehicles, and medical and emergency vehicles will be able to respond rapidly, NASA said in a press release.
This concept graphic shows how elements of automation could be integrated into a future airspace. Technology like this could enable vehicles to operate without a pilot, or if a pilot is in the loop, increase the safety.NASA
Whatever aviation looks like in the coming decades, it will be possible in part due to the research and development happening here in Northeast Ohio.
“It’s a great time to be part of this,” McCartney said. “There’s a revolution in flight as we know it and Glenn’s in a perfect spot to help with that.”
Arrival of the PC-12 Aircraft at NASA's Glenn Research Center
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