This effort builds on a highly successful Phase I to develop a computational, near real-time, aircraft noise monitoring tool called UAM Noise Integration Tool (UNIT). UNIT avoids the need for costly physical noise collection networks and equipment. It enables early determination of aircraft noise impacts and likelihood of public acceptance in populated areas, which are critical to the feasible design of operating concepts for UAM and e-VTOL vehicles. There are three parts to the innovation: (1) the ability to calculate noise impacts in near real-time at any location, (2) the ability to model the noise produced by conceptual UAM and fixed-wing aircraft, and (3) the development of people-focused noise metrics that consider the movement of people throughout the day. UNIT is designed to operate in a real-time environment and provides inputs to flight path optimization algorithms to minimize noise impacts to shifting population densities during the day. It is highly relevant to NASA’s Subtopic A3.01 Advanced Air Traffic Management Systems Concepts, which cites “achieving high efficiency in using aircraft, airports, enroute and terminal airspace resources, while accommodating an increasing variety of missions and vehicle types, including wide-spread integration of UAS and ODM operations.” UNIT responds to the RFP area of “concepts for emergent risks,” since noise is a potential UAM showstopper due to the high frequency of ODM operations and public noise impacts. History tells us that communities are highly sensitive to noise. Public backlash to ODM/UAM and e-VTOL noise could thwart the concept and technology before it launches. NASA’s Parimal Kopardekar has stated that noise is one of the top three challenges for UAM. The results of our efforts will be useful to NASA’s current interest in enabling UAM through their ATM-X project and Grand Challenge research efforts, as well as being commercializable for airports, urban communities, and UAM operators.
The ATM-X Testbed can use our integrated UNIT software to produce real-time simulations to analyze the environmental impacts of future UAM e-VTOL scenarios, as well as non-UAM scenarios with conventional fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. UNIT can be used for planned flight demonstrations, such as the UAM Grand Challenge, and the ATM-X Initial UAM Ops Integration sub-project by supporting optimization of future noise-sensitive routes. Other NASA programs such as RVLT could use UNIT to support analysis of community noise impacts.
UNIT (1) replaces expensive physical noise monitors with modeled virtual receptors to compute noise values on the ground, (2) provides near-instant feedback on potential environmental impact changes to improve designs for ANSP airspace redesign processes, (3) supports low-noise e-VTOL aircraft design processes, and (4) enables noise-sensitive flight path planning for UAM service providers.