Planning Airways for Urban Air Mobility in Small Cities: A Case Study of Tuscaloosa, Alabama

The development of small-size vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicles enables urban planners to consider a new mode of transporting goods and people within a metropolitan area using the air space. Urban Air Mobility (UAM) relying on small-size vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicles has been trending as a possible future intra-region mobility service. Studies have been largely focused on large cities and there is limited discussion about implementing such a mobility system in small cities where the travel demand exhibits different spatiotemporal patterns. Using a case study of Tuscaloosa, Alabama area, this study provides some initial thoughts on planning airways for UAM in small cities. The goal of this study is to compare two strategies for operating a UAM system in small cities: 1) Vertiport-To-Vertiport Operation (VVO) that allows VTOL vehicles to fly beeline paths between origin and destination vertiports and 2) Hub-Based Operation (HBO) that all VTOL vehicles need to fly within airways between virtual hubs in the air. The VVO operation has the shortest flight distance and time; but it may result in difficulty in air traffic control (due to disorganized flight conflicts in the air) and environment issues (such as the noise). The HBO operation appears to outperform the VVO in terms of air traffic controls; but it will cause delays and detours (increasing energy consumption and emissions) due to potential congestions in airways. This study simulated a hypothetical UAM system, serving travelers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The simulation varied the demand levels (number of trips), cruising speed, and the number of hubs (for the HBO operation) to examine their impacts on the UAM system performance. Results show that compared with the VVO operation, the HBO operation could significantly reduce the noise impact area (by 50%) and eliminate almost all air traffic conflicts found in the VVO operation; however, the HBO operation could increase the flight distance by up to 27%. More results are discussed in the paper. The findings are expected to be valuable to stakeholders or investors who will consider deploying a UAM system in small cities in the future.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 16p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01763680
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: TRBAM-21-02971
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Dec 23 2020 11:08AM