Will Those Multi-rotor Aircraft Really “Take-Off”?


Will Those Multi-rotor Aircraft Really “Take-Off”?

Amy R. Pritchett, Pennsylvania State University

3:30 p.m., September 20, 2022   |   B001 Geddes Hall

A number of hot topics in aviation right now — such as small UAS, urban air mobility, eVTOL aircraft — depend on new multirotor aircraft configurations. We know that these vehicles can fly in idealized conditions, but what will it take for their use to really “take-off” in society?

This presentation will start by reviewing the enablers of these new vehicles. Then, we’ll note a number of pressing issues being examined at Penn State that may limit their wide-spread use.

Amy R. Pritchett
Amy R. Pritchett

For example, small rotors can easily accrete ice in less-than-perfect atmospheric conditions. When designed for maximum performance, they can be too noisy to operate in an urban environment — requiring trade-offs between vehicle performance and societal acceptance, and meriting a careful engineering design of their landing and take-off procedures.

These vehicles typically depend on new methods of flight control and the business cases for many of them assume highly automated operations allowing for reduced human staffing levels. In a broader sense, these vehicles, and their operations, are so novel compared to traditional methods for certification and operational approval that the aviation community needs to envision new bases for safety cases, including new concepts for human-autonomy teaming, new requirements for adaptive, contextualized behavior, and new methods for modeling and assessing safety.

Amy R. Pritchett is a professor and head of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University. Previously, Dr. Pritchett was on the faculty of the Schools of Aerospace Engineering and of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology from 1997 to 2017. She also served via an IPA as the Director of NASA’s Aviation Safety Program in 2008 and 2009.

Her research focuses on the intersection of technology, expert human performance and aerospace operations, with a particular focus on designing to support safety. She has received the AIAA Lawrence Sperry Award, the RTCA William Jackson Award and, as a member of the Executive Committee of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, the 2008 Collier Trophy. She earned her Sc.D., S.M. and S.B. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

She is currently chairing the National Academies committee on emerging trends in aviation safety and has previously chaired committees examining the use of leaded gasoline in general aviation aircraft and examining FAA Air Traffic Controller Staffing Levels. She recently served as a member on other NRC committees reviewing the FAA Certification Research Plan, Methods for Assessing the Safety of UAS Operations in the NAS, and NASA’s astronaut corps. She also serves as a technical consultant on aircraft accident litigation. She is a fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.