Concept of Operations for Advanced Air Mobility
(ConOps for AAM) in Japan
by Shinichiro Tsuri
Advanced air mobility or AAM, defined as “a transportation system that transports people and property by air between two points in the United States using aircraft with advanced technologies, including electric aircraft or electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, in both controlled and uncontrolled airspace” in the US Advanced Air Mobility Coordination and Leadership Act, is the next-generation of air mobility that is expected to operate in the near future. There is also a term known as the Urban Air Mobility (UAM), which is a subset of AAM focusing on air transportation services in and around urban areas. In order to provide a vision of the future operating environment for UAM, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the Concept of Operations (ConOps) v1.0 for UAM in June 2020, followed by the ConOps v2.0 published in May 2023.
AAM (or UAM) is now a worldwide hot topic, and the concept and regulatory framework are being developed in many countries. In Japan, for example, the Concept of Operations for Advanced Air Mobility (ConOps for AAM) was published in March 2023. In this article, I will introduce the overview of the ConOps for AAM in Japan.
Image of AAM
(Image Source: the FAA’s website Advanced Air Mobility | Air Taxis )
2. Overview of ConOps for AAM in Japan
On March 31, 2023, the first issue of the ConOps for AAM in Japan was released under the activities of Public-Private Committee for Advanced Air Mobility, which was established in 2018 to have public-private joint discussion on technology development and regulatory issues of AAM. The ConOps consists of 1. Introduction, 2. Overview of Advanced Air Mobility, 3. Phases of Advanced Air Mobility Introduction, and 4. Conclusions. In the following, I will highlight some key topics among them.
In the section 2.1, three aircraft types are described as the classification of eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft used as AAM.
The first one is “multirotor.” Lift and thrust are provided by three or more electric powered rotors rotating vertically. The attitude of aircraft can be controlled by combined forces generated by changing the rotation speed of these multiple rotors. This type of aircraft is used only for short‐distance trips due to high battery drainage during the cruise phase.
The second one is “lift and cruise.” Multiple rotors are used to generate lift during vertical take‐off and landing. During cruise, the multiple rotors are turned off, and fixed wings and propellers are used to generate lift and forward thrust for a level flight. This type of aircraft has better energy efficiency than those that are the multirotor type in the cruise phase due to the use of fixed wings, and is therefore suited to longer distance trips.
The third one is “vectored thrust.” Vertically positioned propellers generate lift during vertical take‐off and landing. During cruise, the same propellers tilt to generate forward thrust and lift is generated by the fixed wings. In the same way as a lift and cruise type, this type of aircraft is suited to longer distance trips than the multirotor type, and potentially provides higher cruise speed and distance than other types of aircraft due to the use of the same propulsion system for take-off/landing and cruise.
Section 2.3 explains about on-ground infrastructure for AAM, called “vertiport,” which is defined as an “airport etc.” under the Civil Aeronautics Act, and as a type of a “heliport” dedicated to AAM. While existing aerodromes/airports are expected to be utilized for initial AAM operation, new dedicated vertiports will be needed to operate AAM where existing aerodromes/airports do not exist. Furthermore, additional facilities may be needed such as battery swapping equipment, electrical chargers*1, and fire extinguishing systems for battery fires.
*1 Currently, two methods are known to charge eVTOL aircraft: (1) battery replacement and (2) direct charging.
Airspace, Traffic Management
Section 2.4 describes airspace and traffic management for AAM. Considering the expansion of UAM operations and the emerging remote control or automated/autonomous operation technology, flight safety may not be fully secured only by the VFR (visual flight rules) operation. Therefore, a new concept of airspace and traffic management is needed: the new traffic management service is called Urban Air Traffic Management (UATM) service and the airspace where UATM service will be provided is defined as a UATM Service Area (UASA). UATM services include, but are not limited to,
Information Exchange: Exchange timely and accurate data (such as flight data, restrictions, air route information, active special activity airspace (SAA)) among low‐altitude airspace stakeholders including ANSP (Air Navigation Service Provider), to support the safe and efficient operation of AAM aircraft.
Airspace Management: Establish UASA, vertiport airspaces*2, and UAM routes*3/UAM corridors*4 to efficiently use low‐altitude airspace along with the demand. Introduction of dynamic airspace management may be considered as the scale of operations expands.
*2 The airspaces around vertiports flexibly activated and deactivated in which entry/exit points, arrival/departure paths, missed approach paths, and obstacle limitation surfaces etc. are established.
*3 The routes established to connect airports/vertiports and to increase the predictability of UAM aircraft
locations, thereby improve situational awareness of other low‐altitude airspace stakeholders. Setting UAM routes does not necessarily require significant regulatory change compared to setting UAM corridors. UAM routes can be used by aircraft other than UAM.
*4 Dedicated airspaces connecting airports/vertiports in which aircraft must comply with specific rules, procedures, and performance requirements. Their dimensions are defined and they are established when UAM operation density is particularly high and airspace capacity needs to be increased.
Conflict Management: Manage arrival and departure times and slots in order to ensure that demand of AAM operation is met as much as possible under the limited capacity of airspace and vertiports.
Flight Plan Confirmation/Authorization: As the scale of operations expands, the process of flight plans authorization may be needed. Submitted flight plans are authorized after review and coordination as needed.
Conformance Monitoring: Ensure that AAM aircraft within the UASA is flying in compliance with the confirmed/authorized flight plan. Provide timely information and actions to be taken for non-conforming aircraft affecting the operation of UATM services and for other AAM aircraft affected by the non‐conforming aircraft.
Phases of Advanced Air Mobility Introduction
In section 3, the expected phases of AAM introduction are described. The introduction process is comprised of four phases shown in the table below.
Phases of AAM Introduction
Test flights and demonstration flights prior to commercail operations
Commencement of commercial operations
- Low density operations
- Pilot onboard operations, remotely piloted operations (cargo transport only)
- Medium to high density operations
- Pilot onboard operations, remotely piloted operations
Late 2020's or later
Establishment of AAM operations including autonomy
- High density operations
- Integrated with automated / autonomous operations
2030’s and beyond
Test flights and demonstration flights will be conducted prior to commercial operations. Those flights require JCAB approval along with the safety regulations under the Civil Aeronautics Act.
The initial introduction of commercial AAM operations in Japan will take place. In Phase1, for passenger carrying AAM operations, initial operations are expected to be low density operations and piloted under VFR, similar to existing aircraft operations. Initially, existing airports and rules will be utilized, but relatively small vertiport developments are also envisioned. AAM will be operated based on existing ATM (Air Traffic Management) concepts, but initial UATM services which do not require significant regulatory changes or technological innovation will be introduced.
UATM services in Phase 1 may include:
Information Exchange (Providing information by voice in vertiport airspaces and UAM routes)
Airspace Management (Setting vertiport airspaces and UAM routes, etc.)
Conflict Management (Capacity management of congested ports)
Flight Plan Confirmation
Conformance Monitoring (Obtaining location information using ADS‐B, providing information by voice, etc.)
(Image Source: Concept of Operations for Advanced Air Mobility (ConOps for AAM))
AAM operations in Japan will be scaled up, and medium‐to‐high density, piloted (and some remotely piloted) operations are expected. Larger and more complex vertiports will be developed including in complex urban environments (on the rooftop of buildings etc.). New airspace concepts and advanced UATM services will be implemented where required to support the scale and nature of AAM operations (e.g., remote piloting and IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions)).
UATM services in Phase 2 may include:
Information Exchange (Providing and exchanging information through data)
Airspace Management (Setting UAM corridors and dynamic airspace management may be considered)
Conflict Management (Advanced coordination including capacity management of airspace and flow management)
Flight Plan Authorization
Conformance Monitoring (Real‐time deconfliction will be also considered)
(Image Source: Concept of Operations for Advanced Air Mobility (ConOps for AAM) )
AAM operations in Japan will be scaled up into high‐density operations. Operations in the UASA will be a mix of piloted and remotely piloted operations. Autonomous operations will become more sophisticated. It is expected that, at some point, all airspace users in the UASA will use UATM services. UATM concepts may be expanded to other airspace outside of the UASA and integrated with ATM and UTM (Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management).
3. Future Prospects
As the ConOps for UAM in the US was updated reflecting the continued maturation of UAM and feedback received on the initial version, the ConOps for AAM in Japan is also expected to evolve along with technological advances, overseas trends, and feedback from stakeholders. I hope that the Japanese industry will successfully operate AAM in the near future, fostering a better common understanding of AAM with this document and actively discussing regulations / technologies among stakeholders.
FAA, Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Concept of Operations
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Public-Private Committee for Advanced Air Mobility
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Concept of Operations for Advanced Air Mobility (ConOps for AAM)