A look at NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility helicopter tests

NASA’s Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign, referred to as NC for short, is one step closer to its vision of a new type of air transportation system.

NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA are working together to make this a reality.

The NC Integrated Dry Run tests, having completed their first phase Dec. 2-4, 2020, will continue with the next phase in March with a Bell OH-58C Kiowa helicopter, provided by Flight Research Inc. in Mojave, Calif., to act as a stand-in advanced air mobility vehicle.

The FAA and Flight Research Inc. test pilots are flying different types of maneuvers with the helicopter at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., to help assess procedures and infrastructure while also developing a data baseline for future industry partnership flight testing.

A Bell OH-58C Kiowa helicopter provided by Flight Research Inc. of Mojave, California flies at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., the first week of December 2020. The Advanced Air Mobility National Campaign project used the helicopter as a stand-in advanced air mobility vehicle to develop a data baseline for future flight testing. (NASA photograph by Ken Ulbrich)

“These initial flights enabled feedback in two key areas of Urban Air Mobility operations: pilot feedback on UAM approach procedures and helipad markings that will support research flight tests,” said Starr Ginn, AAM National Campaign lead.

The data collected during these flights will be used in developing lessons learned in operational procedures.

The final round of dry run testing will collect even more flight characteristics data and finalize the National Campaign flight test infrastructure development prior to deployment and flights with industry partners.

This will also prepare the National Campaign for the next step in the process – the developmental test with partner Joby Aviation planned for spring 2021.

Testing with Joby’s AAM vehicle will include activities to prepare for NC-1 in 2022, such as designing flight scenarios for the NC-1 participants to fly, exercising range deployment, and data collection protocols across operational safety use cases. 

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