Deloitte to develop urban air mobility plan for NASA

18 June 2019 3 min. read
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Big Four firm Deloitte has landed a one-year contract from NASA to develop a concept of operations (ConOps) for urban air mobility (UAM). The contract is part of a wider NASA project focusing on the development and introduction of air vehicles like passenger drones and flying taxis into the US transportation system.

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) are a rapidly developing technology, unlocking new applications and insights across industry verticals – from the monitoring of crops to the surveillance of facilities and delivery of packages.

But drones, as they’re colloquially known, also have a “manned” future, with “guy in the sky” applications such as automated flying taxis. Between artificial intelligence and aerial passenger drones, a lot of science fiction is becoming science reality. Chinese firm Ehang unveiled the first passenger drone in 2016, and Boeing’s self-piloted passenger drone completed its first test flight earlier this year. Uber, meanwhile, aims to have aerial drone passenger service by 2023.

Deloitte to develop urban air mobility plan for NASA

Formulating a system to incorporate personal air traffic into the air transport system is no simple task however. On a basic level, you’ve got to make sure they don’t go near airports, or flight paths, or crash into each other or buildings. There’s a ton of policy and regulation to be worked out.

Deloitte will be helping NASA work out how to safely accommodate new air vehicles into the air system. Deloitte will work out the ConOps – which delineates quantitative and qualitative system characteristics, and outlines processes for initiating and maintaining the system, the responsibilities of authorities, and the strategies and policies affecting the system. ConOps are widely used in governmental services and the military.

The ConOps, which will take approximately 12 months to complete, will then be shared with the broader aviation and urban air mobility communities.

“What we love about this project is that it brings together our future of mobility work at the local, state, and federal government level with our private-sector aerospace and systems engineering experience,” said Chris Metts, specialist executive, Deloitte Consulting. “It also allows us to collaborate with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and industry in this most important, foundational activity for the future of aviation.”

Deloitte launched its global drone solutions service offering last year, aiming to support public and private sector clients with drone strategy and integration as the sector grows in importance. Strategy firm McKinsey & Company projects commercial drones will account for between $31 and $46 billion US GDP by 2026.

"Because of the rapid pace of change, developing a vision of urban air mobility requires practical knowledge of global aviation ecosystem as well as experience with disruptive change other commercial sectors," Matt Metcalfe, Deloitte Consulting’s future of aviation and urban air mobility leader, said. "We have developed an advisory team of key global aviation and mobility leaders across Deloitte's global aviation business as well as industry, federal and local government, and academia. They will provide tremendous insight and will help us shape a ConOps."