The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

On The Radar

U.S. Department of Transportation Seeks Comments on Future Technology Proposals

The Pathways to the Future of Transportation document was published on July 28, 2020, by the Non-Traditional & Emerging Transportation Technology Council (NETT) established by the U.S. Department for Transportation in 2019. At face value, the document appears to do little more than lay more groundwork for the NETT Council's mission of bringing innovators and entrepreneurs together to advance the adoption of new transportation technology. 

The report spells out how various U.S. government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration, are engaged in regulating the introduction of new transportation technology. It also explains the basis on which projects might be eligible for federal funding or other support, as well as detailing requirements such as environmental standards and "Buy American" policies. The report acknowledges that an earlier consultation completed in December 2019 included comments from the private sector that "regulatory uncertainty" may be a disincentive for investment in transportation technology in the U.S.

There is very little mention of specific aviation technologies, such as electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, in the report. It does mention various mass transit proposals such as the "hyperloop" vacuum train concept advocated by Tesla founder Elon Musk and also the possible adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The U.S. Congress has previously appropriated $2 million to support the work of the NETT Council. It is due to report back to Congress by December 20, 2020, on its proposed next steps. It remains to be seen what future the NETT Council will have following the U.S. General Election on November 3, 2020–little more than a month after the comment period for the "Pathways" document ends on September 28, 2020.

It would appear that the Agility Prime program being championed by the U.S. Air Force to encourage the development of new aircraft technologies, including eVTOL, may have a more immediate, and perhaps lasting, impact on the aviation sector.