Flying Cars: A Jetsonian Reality Coming to Utah

Written by Muriel Xochimitl, Deseret UAS Communications Director and President of X-Factor Strategic Communications

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The future of transportation is autonomous. Self-driving vehicles and unmanned air taxis have the potential to create a world in which the computer is literally in the driver’s seat. Flying vehicles may sound like a Jetsonian, “pie in the sky” concept, but it’s a reality that’s coming to Utah within the coming decade. 

“Industry analysts project that urban air mobility will be integrated by 2023,” says Jared Esselman, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT)’s Director of Aeronautics. “We may see a new method of air transportation in the next five years and we are working to ensure Utah is ready for it. Safety is our top priority so the proper regulations and infrastructure will need to be established.”

What does this mean for the future of mobility in Utah?

Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is a new transportation system in which unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) like air taxis and personal flying vehicles operate in airspace over an urban environment. UAM technologies are advancing rapidly to support the safe transportation of packages and people. While current commercial flight occurs between 30,000 to 35,000 feet above ground level (AGL), a UAM system will operate between 200-2,000 feet AGL. 

More than a dozen Utah-based companies and entities are already working in the UAM industry and Deseret UAS is one of them. Deseret UAS is a state-funded non-profit organization created through a partnership with Tooele and Box Elder Counties, in close collaboration with Ogden City. The organization’s mission is to facilitate rural economic development through the advancement of the urban air mobility (UAM) industry here in Utah.

Companies are racing to commercialize their UAM technologies and need places to test like the miles of wide-open land and air that these rural counties have to offer. In addition, Deseret UAS’ ability to secure Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight test authorizations makes Utah the perfect environment for companies to locate here and bring hundreds of jobs with them.

“We are on the cusp of a transportation revolution,” says Deseret UAS Board Chair and Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne. “The significance of this moment cannot be overstated. We are at an inflection point in the history of human transportation that will improve our air quality, support a robust economy, and fundamentally enhance our quality of life.”

To Pave the Way For More Drone Services in the Future

KSL Coverage of USU AggieaAir and Deseret UAS participation in NASA program

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LOGAN, Utah — Having drones deliver your Amazon packages, or even take you to work, may seem like science fiction, but they could be just a couple of many services of the future.

Researchers from USU’s Aggie Air are now one of just over a dozen different groups being asked to help NASA test that viability.

The testing will take place in Reno, Nevada later this year.

“Aggie Air flies in manned airspace, with pilots, and we are part of this idea that you can get unmanned aerial systems to fly, and benefit society,” Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Cal Coopmans said. “NASA has asked us to participate in a demonstration in what they say is the future of the airspace.”

Deseret UAS and Electrafly Interviewed at CES

Interview broadcast across the country

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Tech Today interviewed Executive Director, Tulinda Larsen and Director Industry Relations, Marshall Wright, with John Manning with Electrafly at CES2019. Tech Today  is received by over 48 million viewers in 22 million TV broadcast households in the United States and Puerto Rico, with a network of 45 broadcast affiliates in 42 television markets.

Women & Drones 2019 Outlook

Onward and Upward for Drones in 2019

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Women and Drones released outlooks for 2019. Deseret UAS Executive Director, Tulinda Larsen was featured: 

"Future transportation systems will include not only roads, bridges, trails, and sidewalks, but also vertical infrastructure where Urban Air Mobility (UAM) vehicles carry packages and people on virtual highways in the sky. 2019 will be the year UAM vehicle and service companies will be testing their prototypes. We will see companies racing to develop and test the most advanced capabilities and move forward to FAA airworthiness certification, which is an unproven process.

Deseret UAS predicts in 2019 there will be a growing need for independent UAM flight test ranges where products and services can be tried out, before entering into a full air worthiness flight testing program.."