Avionics News July 2020 - 59

C

urrently, urban air mobility is all the rage. As an
industry, we tend to bounce around every few
months to a new "thing" that occupies all the
press, chatter and investment. In the past, this has included:
beyond visual line of sight; package delivery; detect and avoid;
unmanned (or universal) traffic management; operations over
people; and remote identification. All of these topics present
significant challenges, and in no way am I indicating that they
are not worthy of attention. Right now, it seems that UAM is
climbing the hype cycle curve. (Literally as I write this, NASA
has decided the new name is advanced air mobility to reflect
that we're talking about a broader set of
use cases than urban commuting.)
Apart from a tremendous amount
of investment and effort going into
designing actual aircraft (more than
200 at last count), there also is a lot of
thought being placed in the ecosystem
and infrastructure that will support
UAM/AAM in the future - from the
way we plan buildings and even cities
to the communications and navigation
infrastructure required.
uAvionix is an avionics company,
so we navigate in that direction, even
if it is a bit less sexy than some of
the fantastic vertiport artwork full of
glass and trees in parklike settings.
We are currently working with UAM/
AAM manufacturers on specialized
command and control (C2) and GPS
navigation systems customized to the
UAM/AAM operation. So, consider this piece a bit more on the
practical side. What avionics will be needed on these aircraft?
What functions will they perform? How well will they have to
perform? The following are some predictions that are guiding
uAvionix's development in this space.

nance of electric aircraft are significantly lower than an aircraft
with complex piston or turbine engines.
Electric means batteries, and battery performance will drive
key requirements for avionics, specifically what is known as
size, weight and power consumption - or SWaP.
Size: The bigger the avionics are, the bigger the battery
capacity of the aircraft will need to be, which translates directly
to weight.
Weight: The heavier the aircraft, the shorter the range, or the
lower the payload capacity (and you are the payload).
Power Consumption: The more power hungry the avionics are, the shorter the battery life, which
again translates to shorter range and to
less of a business case.
A direct derivative of this is that the
aircraft are being designed to be as small
as possible to carry their designated
number of passengers. From what we've
seen so far, there isn't much extra space
for your baggage or - more to the point
- for an avionics bay. This size-related
limitation is more focused on the volume
a piece of equipment takes up in the
aircraft rather than the weight it adds.
At uAvionix, we've tackled this problem head-on by designing our products
into what we call "smart antennas"
- where the entire piece of equipment
resides outside the aircraft by being built
into the antenna or aircraft lighting, or
both (see our skyBeacon, tailBeacon and
tailBeaconX products).
In these cases, there is no internal component save for some
thin serial cabling. This reduces weight, volume and improves
the overall ease of maintenance. Externally mounted systems
have to be more robust and go through higher levels of environmental testing, but the end result places less constraints on
the aircraft.

WHAT AVIONICS
WILL BE NEEDED
ON THESE
AIRCRAFT?
WHAT FUNCTIONS
WILL THEY
PERFORM?
HOW WELL WILL
THEY HAVE TO
PERFORM?

eVTOL
The first assumption that holds throughout this article is
that UAM/AAM vehicles will be electric vertical takeoff
and landing aircraft. It is true that UAM business models are
currently being trialed using traditional helicopters - Airbusowned Voom and Uber Copter are great examples. But for this
exercise, I'm looking to the future aircraft because, ultimately,
it doesn't seem the business model will hold until we have
aircraft that are less expensive to operate and maintain than the
current helicopter fleet. Electric is the key to that success. Just
like with electric cars, the projected lifetime costs for mainte-

Certifications
Presently in the drone world, there is a lot of discussion
within regulatory bodies and organizations like JARUS debating exactly what defines "airworthiness" for drones - and
the answer tends to be based on the specific mission profile.
Rightfully so, high-risk operations (as determined by a number
of factors) should require higher levels of "airworthiness" than
low-risk operations. A key goal here is to not burden low-risk
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Avionics News July 2020

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