The FAA Expects to Maintain High Safety Standards for eVTOLs

Agency is trying to balance support of development against a concern for passenger safety

eVTOL development is proceeding at a dizzying paceUber photo

It’s getting so almost no one except industry insiders can keep track of all the electric flying machines in various stages of development, most of which were highlighted at the recent Uber Elevate Conference in Los Angeles. No one doubts there will soon be dozens of potential flying machines headed to a big city near you. However, the pace of aircraft development is proceeding at a dizzying speed, something that worries people at the FAA. Uber has already said it hopes to support the testing of a new electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle in both the Los Angeles and the Dallas/Fort Worth area by 2020. Along with vehicle testing, of course, a highly integrated airspace network in which to operate the new machines is needed.

The FAA’s acting administrator Dan Elwell said the agency expects development will eventually lead to successful vehicles, but reminds developers that the agency has no intention of cutting the eVTOL industry an ounce of slack when it comes to passenger safety. During an interview quoted in Recode, Elwell said, … “I’m confident that this industry is going to come to the table not only with the innovative ideas that have been obvious in the past decade, but the safety solutions that make it that much easier to put the regulatory umbrella over it.” He pointed to the excellent safety record of Part 121 carriers in the U.S.

He added that while driverless automobiles are expected to bring with them an improvement in safety for passengers, flying vehicles offer no such guarantees. Elwell said it’s incumbent upon all e-vehicle builders to not only bring their new technologies to the agency for evaluation, but to also create answers to the safety problems expected to emerge along the way. He added the agency does not plan to help get the e-vehicle industry up and running without a strong safety metric in place first. “We’re not going to go backwards. We’re not going to say let’s see how it all works.”