NASA is spearheading the efforts on Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and providing impetus to the industry to follow with concepts for the same. Several manufacturers, as well as, NASA, have come up with concepts for UAM aircraft; mostly using Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP). However, the multidisciplinary interactions involved and the ability to utilize the distributed propulsors for improved control are not fully understood. To achieve this and use such capabilities in design, we are developing IDEA, a design optimization architecture that includes multidisciplinary multi-fidelity analyses for integrated airframe-DEP design. This technology, if successful, can push the state of the art in UAM aircraft concept design and DEP enabled aircraft in general.
The AAM project at NASA (and UTM as well) will directly benefit from this research, in terms of availing the true benefits of DEP-enabled aircraft. The design tool will help understand and leverage the multidisciplinary interactions involved and will directly benefit programs such as AAVP, AATT, TTT and RVLT, which are looking for advanced aircraft designs.
Several aircraft manufacturers have responded to the UAM Grand Challenge and are actively pursuing designs for DEP aircraft for UAM. The ability to design and control these aircraft in the most effective manner is still an elusive goal. Hence, both commercial and civil contractors will benefit from IDEA that can help them refine their designs or come up with new ones.