What is the Regulatory Role of a City when it Comes to Urban Air Mobility (UAM)?
How do we integrate Advanced Air Mobility into cities...
In advance of the MOVE 2022 conference beginning June 15th and the panel session “How do we integrate Advanced Air Mobility into connected transport?,” the following post is an excerpt of a forthcoming document summarizing the work of Urban Movement Labs over the past year as a part of the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Partnership.
Since early 2021, Urban Movement Labs (UML) has been leading the work of the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Partnership, a product of a public-private partnership between the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), and private sector partners. This model of public-private-community partnership is foundational to UML’s mission and serves as an example for cities around the world on how to co-design new parts of cities’ transportation networks. The UAM Partnership has focused on educating and engaging Los Angeles residents and city departments around a new and dynamic transportation technology - electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles. The work conducted under the UAM Partnership sets a precedent for how diverse stakeholders can collaborate on a safe, community-centered approach to integrating aerial mobility technology into existing and new multimodal platforms.
One of the biggest areas of questions that come up when educating and engaging stakeholders is the regulatory landscape of new modes of aerial transportation. Who, in terms of which public agency or jurisdiction, will be able to authorize and approve of the operations of this new transportation mode? Who will establish the “rules” by which these vehicles operate, and who will have the authority to enforce those “rules?” While most people are (relatively) clear on how regulations around the use of traditional automobiles are developed and enforced, the notion of localized aviation operations raises many questions.
Due to the complex policy landscape that regulates aviation, operationalizing a vision for UAM requires a strategy for informing policy development across jurisdictional entities and levels of authority. To inform the development of this strategy, local jurisdictions considering UAM operations should have a clear understanding of those regulatory activities that can be led by the local jurisdiction, and those activities that will be led by county, state, and federal regulatory agencies.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conceptualizes the UAM policy and regulatory landscape under five ecosystem areas: aircraft, airspace, community, infrastructure, and operations. To help understand where local involvement and guidance may be most impactful (e.g., how a city like Los Angeles might best influence the integration of UAM into the existing urban fabric), applicable federal, state, county, and local regulatory codes were explored through the lens of these ecosystem areas. A review of existing codes and regulations define both the authorities and capabilities of the respective agencies in regards to the future ecosystem of UAM operations, and highlight where each agency may have the most influence, and inform necessary resource allocations to effectively guide policy at the local level. While the regulatory code sections reviewed were primarily for the City of Los Angeles, they also provide valuable guidance to other local jurisdictions within California and across the US.
In the figures below, the size of the box shown for each regulatory agency is based on the volume of existing codes and/or regulations for each area of the UAM ecosystem. Therefore, the larger the box for each agency, the greater the regulatory role in that area of the UAM ecosystem.
Aircraft certification, licensing, and registration are all overseen at the federal level and augmented at the state level to clarify requirements and enforcement practices and/or agencies. The county adds registration requirements for visiting aircraft. Federal regulators are most influential in this space with state, county, or local regulation augmentation for aircraft registration.
Equitable access to safe and navigable airspace is primarily regulated at the federal level, with state code reaffirming this federal authority. At the local level, airspace regulations exist to protect navigable airspace, primarily around federally obligated public airports. Local jurisdictions reaffirm federal authority primarily through overlay zones around public airports to assure safe approach and departure routes. This area is most influenced at the federal level to protect and assert jurisdictional authority over navigable airspace. State and local policy affirm this authority, while local policy outlines how airspace will be protected for approach and departure routes around airports.
Specific aviation-focused regulations concerning the community at the federal and state level are centered around community noise impacts surrounding airports. The FAA manages noise-specific programs to solicit feedback from communities to inform mitigation strategies. The State of California builds on this issue by establishing Airport Land Use Commissions (ALUCs) whose primary role is to flag development that may be incompatible with airport operations (Such as the Los Angeles County ALUC) . The FAA relies on local communities in the implementation of noise programs. Today, at heliports, local jurisdictions often mitigate community impacts through land use policy and regulation.
It is important to recognize that there are other aspects of aviation that impact communities, and those aspects frequently have highly nuanced regulations not readily apparent to community members. While local municipalities provide for the general welfare of the communities within their jurisdiction, there are few, if any, explicit local codes that directly affect the aviation ecosystem. Working with communities and elevating concerns is an aspect of future UAM operations where local municipalities can explore opportunities to provide input to federal regulations, such as pending guidance on Uncrewed Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) or similar.
At the federal level, there are requirements for providing notice to the FAA for issues impacting aviation infrastructure, funding, and inspecting public airports. State regulators influence permitting and design requirements for establishing new airports and heliports. Today, local agencies guide land use planning, zoning, and permitting for heliports, with a focus on Emergency Helicopter Landing Facilities (EHLF), private heliports, hospital heliports, and infrequent landing locations. There are also land use compatibility requirements to protect navigable airspace, as well as protecting community members from the impact of aviation operations. This area is more heavily regulated at the local level, though the FAA retains a degree of authority at public airports receiving federal grant funding.
The FAA regulates pilot, crew member, and air traffic controller certification, and various operations types, such as charter, scheduled, private, and drone operations. State-level code reaffirms the FAA’s regulatory authority over navigable airspace to facilitate safe operations, particularly low-altitude airspace accommodating safe arrivals and departures at an airport, as well as reasonable temporary helicopter operations. Local agencies regulate helicopter operations, such as allowable aircraft weight, operational tempo, and operation hours, through existing permit processes. Additionally, the Fire Department regulates operations for temporary/infrequent landings at locations other than heliports through existing operational permitting processes. The Fire Department also permits operations before commencing at new facilities, to assure aircraft rescue, firefighting, and life safety matters are adequately addressed.
By pairing an understanding of the existing regulatory landscape with a visioning process, local jurisdictions can develop a strategy to guide policy development. Urban Movement Labs believes that an understanding of the regulatory landscape of UAM is crucial for any city contemplating future UAM operations or similar, and can serve as a good starting point when considering how a city might further develop policies and regulations for future planned UAM operations. Infrastructure - meaning the policies, regulations, and processes cities create and oversee in regards to the development of physical facilities within city limits - is where cities have the greatest opportunity to influence a future UAM ecosystem. However, the regulatory authority of a local city must also balance the regulatory authorities of county, state, and federal agencies in terms of broader aviation operations and planning.
For more information and to stay up-to-date on future publications, visit www.urbanmovementlabs.com.