Aerospace Sciences

Ramping up work on simulations for advanced air mobility

The Modeling and Simulation Technical Committee focuses on simulation of atmospheric and spaceflight conditions to train crews and support design and development of aerospace systems.

The coronavirus pandemic significantly impacted demand for, and the operation of, commercial passenger aircraft this year. To assist aviation planners amid this uncertainty, MITRE Corp. developed two forecast models. These models draw on diverse feature data and harness the power of machine learning techniques to provide data-driven scenarios with lead times from one week to one month. The two forecasts are being used in tandem, with the first predicting the risk for covid-19 infections (and the cascading disruptions) at airports and air traffic facilities and the second predicting hourly and daily air traffic demand. These forecast models were shared with FAA and flight operators in June and July to identify key information and performance needs for a range of applications under consideration.

The pandemic also significantly impacted the execution of human-in-the-loop simulations in facilities around the world; however, preparations for these simulations continued. NASA announced an Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign to promote public confidence and accelerate the introduction of vertical takeoff and landing vehicle designs in urban, suburban, rural and regional environments. As part of the campaign, and to support research that contributes to the introduction of AAM, several facilities across NASA prepared for simulations this year. These simulations will promote vehicle technologies, development of handling-quality and ride-quality standards, and the introduction of AAM vehicles into the national airspace system. In January, researchers gathered at Future Flight Central, a simulated air traffic control tower at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, and demonstrated how AAM vehicles would land and depart from a vertiport on the terminal A parking structure of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Given the proliferation of AAM electric vertical takeoff and landing designs, several teams including Systems Technology, Adaptive Aerospace and NASA Ames are supporting FAA in developing means of compliance testing methods for Part 23 small aircraft certification requirements. While the processes and requirements needed to certify these disparate vehicles for airspace operations are still emerging, the teams are creating methods inspired by the mission-oriented approach to defining handling qualities mission task elements that originated in the U.S. Army’s military rotorcraft design standard, ADS-33E-PRF. Also, flight controls and quadrotor models were integrated and flown in February at Ames’ Vertical Motion Simulator. The emerging handling-qualities-task elements will be evaluated in the simulator using a variety of aircraft configurations that may include a quadrotor, lift-plus-cruise, tilt-rotor or tilt-wing.

In the space domain, preparations began at Ames under NASA’s Artemis program for the development, testing and certification of the Human Landing System on the Vertical Motion Simulator and to help train astronauts for landing on the moon by 2024 in one of the landing systems to be developed by NASA’s commercial partners. In April, NASA selected three companies to begin work on the Human Landing System program. Two of these companies are in discussions with Ames to simulate their lunar lander designs at the Vertical Motion Simulator.

Contributors: Christine Taylor and David Klyde

Ramping up work on simulations for advanced air mobility