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Wisk Realigns Autonomous UAM ConOps With Existing ATC

Wisk has adapted its autonomous UAM operating concept to leverage existing ATC procedures.

Credit: Wisk Aero

Wisk Aero has updated its concept of operations (ConOps) for autonomous urban air taxis, moving from end-to-end, trajectory-based operations to a procedural methodology for integration into national airspace that does not require changes to existing air traffic management (ATM) systems.

The Boeing-owned electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) developer released the first version of its ConOps for uncrewed urban air mobility (UAM) in September 2022. The new version incorporates feedback from industry and government and changes to align with the FAA’s UAM ConOps V.2.0 released in April 2023.

The ConOps target safe integration of uncrewed UAM passenger operations in U.S. airspace by the end of the decade. The document outlines Wisk’s approach to autonomous UAM aircraft, ground-based multivehicle supervisors in fleet operations centers supported by third-party service providers (TSP) and normal operations that rely mostly on existing traffic management concepts.

The updated ConOps is focused in midterm UAM, defined as 2028-32, when uncrewed flights are conducted under expanded visual and instrument flight rules (IFR) that leverage Letters of Agreement with air traffic control (ATC) to enable more automated communications, as well as waivers, exemptions and other special procedures.

The first version of the ConOps called for trajectory-based flight plans to provide flow management as an enabler for uncrewed UAM. “UAM missions will use a single, comprehensive 4D trajectory that will include projected time slots for passing the planned waypoints and appropriate time tolerances,” the document said.

The updated ConOps instead says UAM-centric flight plans will provide flow management on UAM required navigation performance (RNP) routes. “A robust UAM RNP route network and prenegotiated Letters of Agreement with ATC will preclude most routine ATC interventions in UAM flights, enabling ATC to manage UAM aircraft by exception rather than routine instruction,” the document says.

“While UAM operations may significantly benefit from the application of 4D trajectory projections to their flight plans, this concept is likely to be applied during the mature term, when TSPs take on increased levels of responsibility for airspace separation management,” the latest ConOps says.

“Management by exception is used as the transition stage to the TSP-managed environment where legacy ATC is not expected to manage UAM traffic,” the updated document says. “Under this ConOps, UAM RNP routes are assumed to be a transition stage between the regular IFR routes and TSP-management environment.”

“This ConOps defines our vision for autonomous advanced air mobility [AAM] operations and the addition of uncrewed aircraft into the current aviation ecosystem,” Wisk CEO Brian Yutko said in a statement. He added that the document “provides a template for safe, everyday, autonomous flight.”

Graham Warwick

Graham leads Aviation Week's coverage of technology, focusing on engineering and technology across the aerospace industry, with a special focus on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense.