Grand Challenges from NASA to Stimulate Urban Air Mobility

Jim Bridenstine, administrator of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, announced at the Commercial UAV Expo in Las Vegas that NASA will soon issue a series of Grand Challenges to stimulate urban air mobility (UAM). These are envisioned as similar to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Grand Challenges of 2004 and 2005 that led to great leaps forward in autonomous driving technology.


Panorama of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

“What we want to see is urban air mobility have a maturity level we identify as 4 by 2028. Now that doesn’t seem like it’s very long away, and it’s not. We are moving fast. We want to see by 2028 at least one city, maybe more, that have the ability to control hundreds of unmanned aerial systems that could be carrying cargo, could be carrying people, that are doing thousands of missions every day.

“That would be maturity Level 4 for UAM. That’s our objective by 2028.

“The first Grand Challenge will be in 2022. What I’m asking you to do here today is to join us in this effort, to be part of the Grand Challenge.  There’s a lot of different efforts that need to be solved.“

The DARPA Grand Challenges of 2004 and 2005 carried prize purses of $1 million and $2 million, respectively.

The NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Grand Challenge (GC) Virtual Meeting was held on August 27, 2019.  The meeting gave an overview of NASA’s proposed UAM Strategy, described the role NASA will play in a UAM Grand Challenge, and discussed the utility the GC will provide to participants. More details are available here.