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NASA seeks industry partner to support urban air mobility CNS/ATM research

NASA is seeking an industrial partner to investigate and provide recommendations on viable CNS systems and technologies to enable safe, secure, and efficient UAM NAS operations to support UML-4 operations (see below). While UML-4 is the primary concern, the contractor shall also consider if and how each approach could support nearer-term flight-testing at UMLs 2 and 3. The contractor shall also consider the extensibility of each approach to support UML-6.

“There is no expectation of hardware or software deliverables. The contractor shall disclose all tools, methodologies, models, and simulations used to arrive at the recommendations. The Contractor should consider mature candidate technologies (e.g., cellular, satellite, GPS, RTCA SC-228 work, etc.), but this study is not limited to existing approaches due to the expected timeframe for UML-4, which allows for the maturation of technologies currently in early-stage development.”

The text below is from NASA’s call for solicitation

NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate created the UAM Coordination and Assessment Team (UCAT) to define an Agency-level strategy for enabling UAM. In this strategy, the development of standards and conducting validation of integration of airspace technologies such as Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance (CNS) would be required to enable medium density and complexity operations. This statement of work seeks to investigate various approaches to providing reliable, secure, and economically viable UAM CNS services.

As part of the UAM strategic planning efforts, the UCAT defined a series UAM Maturity Levels (UMLs) to aid in understanding how UAM operations will progress towards fully commercialized, autonomous operations. The UMLs definitions and maturation timeframe estimates are:

UML-1 (Present-Early 2020s): Late-Stage Certification Testing and Operational Demonstrations in Limited Environments Aircraft certification testing and operational evaluations with conforming prototypes; procedural and technology innovation supporting future airspace operations (e.g., UTM-inspired); community/market demonstrations and data collection

UML-2 (Mid 2020s): Low Density and Complexity Commercial Operations with Assistive Automation Type certified aircraft; initial Part 135 operation approvals; limited markets with favorable weather and regulation; small UAM network serving urban periphery; UTM Construct and UAM corridors supporting self-managed operations through controlled airspace

UML-3 (Late 2020s): Low Density, Medium Complexity Operations with Comprehensive Safety Assurance Automation
Operations into urban core; operational validation of airspace, UTM inspired ATM, CNS, C2, and automation for scalable, weather-tolerant operations; closely space UAM pads, ports; noise compatible with urban soundscape; model-local regulations

UML-4 (Early 2030s): Medium Density and Complexity Operations with Collaborative and Responsible Automated Systems 100s of simultaneous operations; expanded networks including high-capacity UAM ports; many UTM inspired ATM services available, simplified vehicle operations for credit; low-visibility operations

UML-5 (Late 2030s): High Density and Complexity Operations with Highly Integrated Automated Networks 1,000s of simultaneous operations; large-scale, highly-distributed networks; high-density UTM inspired ATM; autonomous aircraft and remote, M:N fleet management; high-weather tolerance including icing; high-volume manufacturing

UML-6 (2040s): Ubiquitous UAM Operations with System-Wide Automated Optimization
10,000s of simultaneous operations (capacity limited by physical infrastructure); ad hoc landing sites; noise compatible with suburban/rural operations; private ownership & operation models enabled; societal expectation

The first two UMLs focus heavily on development, testing, and initial operations of FAA-certified UAM aircraft. The CNS challenges become significant in UML-3 and especially UML-4, where UAM operators will manage a densely populated airspace in and around urban city centers. The last two UMLs will accommodate even greater numbers of aircraft and will require significant levels of automation and integration to safely manage the airspace.

UAM operations include the transportation of both passengers and cargo in and around metropolitan areas. This study should primarily focus on vehicles sized to carry passengers, but should also consider the broader UAM system, which will require coordination between passenger-carrying UAM operations, small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS), and other operations in the current and future National Airspace System (NAS) in order to safely share the airspace. This study should also consider the interoperability of CNS services between UAM operators and other flight service providers in the NAS as a means of further improving coordination.

For this study, UAM aircraft are assumed to operate up to 4,000 ft. above ground level in and around metropolitan areas and potentially using Class B, C, D, E, and G airspaces. The CNS approaches surveyed in this study should be capable of providing the required services in this airspace domain.

The Contractor shall conduct and document a study that informs NASA about various technical approaches to providing reliable and secure CNS services to support UAM operations at UML-4, with special considerations for early test and deployment at UML-2 and 3, as well as extensibility considerations to UML-6. The UAM community will use the results and recommendations of this study to improve understanding of the current state-of-the-art, aid in efforts to prioritize UAM challenges, identify technology gaps, and better inform decision-makers.

The Contractor shall perform the following tasks:

4.1. The Contractor shall develop and deliver a report that addresses the following considerations:

4.1.1. Communications Data Service Requirements – The Contractor shall investigate, identify and describe critical (e.g., control, telemetry, detect-and-avoid, etc.) and desirable non-critical (e.g., passenger data services) data services needed by Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to support UAM operations. For each data service, the Contractor shall provide comments on important metrics that could affect the design of the communications network, which may include packet size, latency, acceptability of data loss, cybersecurity concerns, data frequency, and expected data throughput. Wireless Links – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on reliable and secure wireless links for UAM aircraft to support the data services recommended in Task All radio technologies may be considered here (e.g., air-to-ground, vehicle-to-vehicle, satellite, etc.), and the study is not bound by existing standards. Ground-Based Network Architecture – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on a reliable and secure network architecture to connect all ground-based CNS assets. This task includes the identification of what CNS assets (e.g., communication towers, radar sites, UAS operations centers, ATC towers, etc.) are required to support UAM and how they should be securely networked together.

4.1.2. Navigation Navigational Requirements – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on the navigational requirements needed to provide safe and secure UAM operations in urban environments. Navigation Technologies – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on the technologies required for meeting the navigational requirements recommended in task The recommendations may include multiple technologies as part of an ensemble approach to meeting the navigational requirements. Denied Navigation – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on technological approaches for achieving safe and secure navigational performance when navigational services are unavailable or compromised. Augmented Navigation During Take-Off and Landing – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on technological approaches for improving navigational capability in areas of denser traffic, e.g., take-off and landing sites or places where routes cross, where UAM aircraft densities and the probability for accidents will be increased.

4.1.3. Surveillance UAM Aircraft Detection and Tracking – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations for a means of detecting and tracking UAM aircraft in the operational urban airspace. It can be assumed that these aircraft are connected to the UAM communications infrastructure and airspace operations management system, and can be communicated with if this will improve the ability to surveil the airspace. Non-UAM Aircraft Detection, Tracking, and Identification – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations for a means of detecting, tracking, and identifying non-UAM aircraft or non-cooperative UAM aircraft in the operational airspace. Non-Aircraft Detection, Tracking, and Identification – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations for a means of detecting, tracking, and identifying non-aircraft objects in the operational airspace that may pose a safety risk to UAM aircraft. This task shall consider what types of objects may be found in UAM airspace and the risk level that each poses to UAM aircraft.
4.1.4. Integrated CNS Considerations Avionics Guidelines and Standards – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on guidelines and standards for the design, certification, and maintenance of the UAM CNS avionics hardware and software recommended in the previous tasks. Avionics Architecture – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on what the best design practices and requirements should be regarding the architecture of CNS avionics hardware and software. This includes but is not limited to the study of Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA). Exploiting CNS Functional Commonality – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on approaches for integrating CNS functions into multi-purpose hardware and software architectures. The intent includes, but is not limited, to reducing the Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) footprint of CNS avionics and improving overall CNS system performance by sharing CNS data between various subsystems. Efficient Usage of Spectrum – The Contractor shall study and provide recommendations on approaches to increase frequency utilization by sharing spectrum across the communications, navigation, and surveillance functional domains. Examples of this could be the inclusion of positional data within a data communications link to aid in navigation and using the RF signature of this link to aid in airspace surveillance. This effort shall also identify any policy or regulatory barriers to more efficient spectrum use, but shall not assume the allocation of additional spectrum. The above refers to approaches beyond conventional means of improving spectral efficiency (e.g., coding, modulation, etc.), which are already known to the community of practice.
4.1.5. Small UAS Interoperability Considerations Shared Airspace CNS Concept of Operations – The Contractor shall provide recommendations on a CNS concept of operations that emphasizes how multiple small UAS and UAM operators may safely share the same CNS infrastructure and spectrum. Special consideration shall be given towards understanding what data should be shared between operators, how this data should be shared, and how CNS service interoperability may improve or reduce the safety of the airspace. CNS Interoperability between UAM and sUAS Operations – If recommended in Task, the Contractor shall provide recommendations on how to achieve CNS service interoperability between UAM and sUAS operations. It is important to consider here that the CNS service requirements for passenger-carrying UAM operations are likely to be more restrictive than what is necessary for small UAS.
4.2. The Contractor shall maintain communication with and accept feedback and input from NASA technical personnel throughout the duration of the contract. This task requirement may be satisfied through the execution of items 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and 5.4 as listed in Section 5 of this SOW.

Solicitation number: 80GRC019RFI0419Z

Deadline for responses: 3 May 2019

Responsible authority: NASA Glenn

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