Making our city skies safe
Regulations for Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) aircraft, such as future air taxis, are being compiled around the world, including the US and Europe. The RMIT team emphasises that weather frameworks are needed to ensure this new technology is safe and reliable.
“Regulations and certification need to specifically address safe operation when traversing building flow fields,” Mohamed said.
He argues that site-specific wind simulations and measurements are essential to identify hazardous regions.
“As we determine the location of vertiports – where these vehicles will take off and land – we also need to determine hazardous regions to avoid. This will enhance safety and reduce interruption of a fleet due to wind conditions,” Mohamed said.
“In Australia, it is not clear yet whether this falls under CASA’s jurisdiction or the Bureau of Meteorology, however, air taxis will need to be provided with weather information at much higher resolution and faster rates than currently possible. This is important for flight planning.
“The margin of error will be much lower than at airports, where large aircraft can tolerate much stronger gusts. We won’t have that flexibility with air taxis in cities.”
“Purpose-built vertiports mean we could integrate geometric design features to reduce hazardous flow conditions from occurring, and we are exploring this in our current research,” Mohamed said.
“Existing buildings can also be repurposed as vertiports but may require modifications to improve the aerodynamics near the landing pads. The effectiveness of such design features can be assessed through either scaled experiments in wind tunnels or through full-scale measurements.
“Extensive wind flow mapping at full-scale will no longer be daunting in the future. We are continuing to develop our wind sensing drones – a swarm of drones instrumented with wind anemometers – to very accurately map around large infrastructure.”
‘Gusts Encountered by Flying Vehicles in Proximity to Buildings’ is published in MDPI’s Drones (DOI: 10.3390/drones7010022). The recommendations could help shape the regulation of vertiports, flight paths and air taxi requirements in Australia and potentially globally.
The researchers are continuing research into wind gusts around buildings, with further exploration of different building shapes that may minimise adverse effects. They are also continuing to study the sensitivity of vehicles to gusts and turbulence, as well as flight-stability technologies.
This research was conducted in collaboration with the University of Maryland and Lehigh University, and was funded by the US Airforce Office for Scientific Research and DSI Group.
Story: Sarah Gates