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Urban Air Mobility Will Stretch Pilot Fatigue Management in New Ways

Short-haul, multiple takeoffs and landings per day, and revolutionary, new eVTOL technologies will test pilot’s resilience in radically new ways.

Eyes wide shut -- bad eVTOL pilot. Bad pilot.

Imagine yourself a taxi driver in New York City, London, Berlin, or Tokyo; dozens, maybe hundreds of trips in an 8-, 10-, maybe even 12-hour day. You’re doing what you can, as the movie Cabaret song said, to “earn a mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound.”

Now, flash-forward to 2027 or 2030 and you’re an eVTOL pilot shuttling pax from JFK to midtown or Narita to the Ginza. That can be a lot of trips and pilot fatigue can be real concern. That’s the thrust of an article published in the Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems written by Yuran Shi. Whether piloting on-board or remotely, pilot fatigue can, and will be, a real issue and regulators are preparing to strategize methods to identify, manage, and mitigate pilot fatigue

The times, they are a-changin’.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), EASA, FAA, and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau have each begun to address the fatigue issue in concepts of operations (ConOps). On the one hand, UAM operations differ significantly from conventional airline piloting. On the other hand, the technologies in development promise to significantly improve safety and may reduce stress and fatigue on UAM pilots.

Sense-and-avoid systems, more limited passenger and cargo loads will affect how much, and how quickly, UAM pilots become fatigued. The question of how quickly the traveling public warms up to the notion of availing themselves of these new air travel options also likely portends a gradual uptake in passenger traffic over time. As UAM vehicles shift from on-board piloted to remotely piloted to autonomous operations, Shi suggests, aviation regulators will have an opportunity to debate fatigue management policies before implementation, bolstering public confidence in the UAM ecosystem boosted incrementally over time.

Sleepful in São Paulo

The US FAA has a 2-page brochure available to pilots to help address fatigue management. Prepared by the Administration’s Aerospace Medical Education Division, the brochure is a short summary of Do’s and Don’ts. Among other cautions, the brochure advises pilots not to consume alcohol or caffeine 3-4 hours before turning in for the night, use sleep medications, or watch violent TV programs. Conversely, creating an environment conducive to good sleep – proper heating or cooling at home, avoiding lengthy mid-day naps, and minimizing stress.

Bumble Bee Animal Lovers Children's Sticker for notebooks, agendas, scrapbooking, travel logs, computers, water bottle, whatever... image 1

Drop me a line at dave [@] aerocarjournal [dot] com and share your perspective (and your tips!) on UAM fatigue management. While you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe to AeroCar Journal, the Ultimate Guide to eVTOLs, Flying Cars, and the Urban Air Mobility Industry.

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Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is a California-based writer who is fascinated by the way technology changes our lives.