NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine shared the agency’s vision for urban air mobility (UAM) at last week’s EAA Spirit of Aviation virtual event. “You can actually make the argument that in the future it’s going to be safer to fly an uncrewed aircraft than crewed aircraft,” he said while outlining NASA’s related programs. Bridenstine, a former congressman and U.S. Navy F-18 pilot, pointed out that sophisticated detect-and-avoid technologies, including 360-degree sensors aboard future autonomously piloted aircraft, will provide “better capabilities than what a human has” when it comes to avoiding midair or terrain collisions. “I know it sounds crazy, but it is absolutely true,” he said.
Bridenstine said current air traffic control infrastructure “is not going to be able to manage” UAM—which he called “advanced air mobility”—as currently envisioned with “thousands of unmanned aerial systems operating [at] 400 feet and below and each of those…systems doing dozens of missions in a given day.