Boeing and partner Wisk Aero have broadly defined requirements they view as needed for the unmanned electric air taxi concept to become reality.

The companies on 20 September released a 64-page report predicting how an air taxi system – known as urban air mobility (UAM) – would actually work.

The report, called “Concept of Operation for Uncrewed Urban Air Mobility”, makes technical recommendations about how air taxis can be safely integrated into airspace.


Source: Wisk Aero

Wisk’s prototype electric aircraft

“This document describes an approach to the transition from crewed to uncrewed flight,” the report says. “It specifically addresses a critical element to safely scaling up the tempo of UAM flight operations – enhanced automation and a shift in how we define the role of pilots.”

Boeing has a stake in the burgeoning air taxi industry through its investment in California air taxi developer Wisk.

The report outlines required systems and infrastructure, including landing zones (called vertiports), ground management providers and fleet operations centres, which will monitor flights, ensure aircraft separation and issue air traffic control (ATC) instructions, the document says. ATC functions will need to be automated, necessitating significant upgrades to existing systems.

“Automated traffic management will enable reduced aircraft separation and higher traffic density,” the report says.

Additionally, air taxis will require advanced satellite navigation and communication systems, and detect-and-avoid technology to prevent midair collisions.

They must also have secondary positioning systems – such as inertial navigation systems – to ensure they continue operating safely if their primarily GPS-based navigation fails, the report says. The aircraft will also need vehicle management systems, which will manage flight plans, communicate with ATC, capture maintenance data and fly the aircraft.

Boeing competitor Embraer, which majority owns air taxi developer Eve, released a similar report in 2019.