As reported by UAM Airinsight (UAM Insight 10 September 2019 – NASA Launches UAM Grand Challenge) NASA launched the UAM Grand Challenge in August. This week NASA launched its solicitation for companies to join its Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Grand Challenge.

Companies that would like to participate in the Grand Challenge will be able to sign-up via a non-reimbursable umbrella space act agreement. The Grand Challenge is open to three types of partners, 1) U.S. vehicle companies who plan to fly in the GC-DT 2020, 2) U.S. airspace companies who plan to run airspace simulations during the GC-DT and 3) domestic or international vehicle companies interested in participating in GC-1 2022.

Companies partnering with NASA for the UAM Grand Challenge will need to comply with the following timetable:

  • Flight Participants for GC-DT in 2020:
    Proposals Due: November 22, 2019
    Signed Agreement No Later Than December 31, 2019
  • Airspace Participants for GC-DT in 2020:
    Proposals Due: November 30, 2019, Signed Agreement No Later Than December 31, 2019
  • Information Exchange in Preparation for GC-1 in 2022:
    Proposals Due: November 30, 2020
    Signed Agreement No Later Than December 31, 2020

The Grand Challenge aims to improve UAM safety and accelerate scalability through integrated demonstrations by hosting a series of UAM ecosystem-wide challenges beginning in 2020. The series of challenges will support the Federal Aviation Administration in developing an approval process for UAM vehicle certification, develop flight procedure guidelines, evaluate communication, navigation and surveillance requirements, define airspace operations management activities and characterize vehicle noise levels.

The first testing opportunity in the Grand Challenge series will focus on the developmental testing of U.S. developed aircraft and will include airspace operations management services to explore architectures and technologies needed to support future safety and scalability of UAM operations. Participants selected for the developmental testing, also known as GC-DT, will have the opportunity to fly at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, or a range of their choice, and participate in collaborative airspace operations simulations. NASA will select participants for the GC-DT based on applicants that best meet a set of pre-defined qualifications necessary for flight safety and mission success.

GC-DT is the first step toward Grand Challenge 1 (GC-1) in 2022, which will involve broad industry participation, including domestic vehicle and airspace partners and international vehicle companies that will have the opportunity to fly more complex UAM aircraft operations at testing locations within the United States.

GC-1, the first of a series of increasingly complex challenges will require participants to demonstrate safe operation of a piloted or remotely piloted aircraft capable of carrying a payload equivalent to at least one adult passenger within a complex simulated urban environment. GC-1 will test UAM technologies against key barriers to UAM integration in the U.S. national airspace, such as adverse weather, emergency landings, surveillance, loss of communication and operations scheduling and routing. The scenarios developed for the Grand Challenge series are designed to represent real-world UAM operations and address barriers for aircraft certification, operational safety, and community acceptance.

NASA’s Grand Challenge is a subproject under the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s (ARMD) Advance Air Mobility project. ARMD’s UAM vision is to revolutionize mobility within metropolitan areas by enabling a safe, efficient and convenient transportation system for passengers and cargo. The UAM Grand Challenge is structured to work with the UAM community to identify and address the key challenges to achieving this vision.

The Grand Challenge aims to strengthen public confidence in the safety of Urban Air Mobility as this new and exciting technology integrates into the national airspace.


Less than a year from NASA calling the industry together for a discussion of the NASA UAM Grand Challenge, NASA has taken the steps to allow companies to participate and move forward the UAM industry. While there is no monetary purse with the NASA UAM Grand Challenge, NASA argues that “valuable knowledge that will be given to the organizations working to establish the certification requirements and standards needed for the market to move forward.”

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