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Navigating Uncharted Skies: The Path to UAM Commercialization

Drone Flying

Today, innovators like Airbus, Volocopter GmbH, and Urban Aeronautics are making headlines with their unveiling of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs). Although still in its infancy, the global urban air mobility (UAM) market is projected to reach $23.42 billion (USD) in revenue and achieve a 16.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 20321.

Despite this growth potential, there are many legal and regulatory barriers with getting UAM products to market. They include:

  • Identifying cybersecurity and safety risks
  • Determining what product functionality and infrastructure need to be regulated (e.g., airworthiness, traffic management, landing site management)
  • Identifying gaps in requirements and means of compliance
  • Determining optimal path to product certification

Perhaps the greatest challenge is cultivating social acceptance. How do you build trust in a technology that is relatively new and address consumers’ safety, noise, and privacy concerns?

Here, we expand on some of the product development obstacles that UAM manufacturers face as they try to gain momentum in this fledgling market. We also review how a cloud-native product lifecycle management (PLM) solution can help companies meet regulatory requirements and achieve commercialization success.



Because UAM aircraft incorporate novel design features, they require their own set of classifications as well as performance and safety criteria. Consequently, several countries are establishing a new regulatory framework for the certification of UAM transportation. It encompasses standards around airworthiness, airspace, operations, and infrastructure.

Airworthiness certification standards establish requirements for aircraft design, manufacturing, performance, failure response, and maintenance. They typically apply to features such as aircraft structure, propellers, software, and electronics.

Global Aviation Authorities: Shaping the Future of Air Safety & UAM Operations

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) are key authorities that govern aviation safety worldwide. EASA has released a set of proposed airworthiness standards, primarily focusing on small VTOL aircraft2. Additionally, the FAA has joined forces with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to define the commercial operations of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107) outlines operational limitations, pilot responsibilities, and aircraft requirements3. The two authorities have also developed the UAM Concept of Operations (ConOps), a working document which defines a future state of UAM operations that would allow for increased autonomy and operational tempos across major metropolitan areas and suburbs4.

At the U.S. state and local levels, laws have been enacted to prohibit drones in certain areas and protect the health, safety, and privacy of residents. Other laws exist to protect the operations of unmanned aerial systems when used for applications such as emergency response and law enforcement.

Navigating UAM Compliance Through Established Aerospace and Automotive Standards

Some standards that are not directly related to UAM provide companies a means of compliance and help inform UAM certification. They cover areas such as design, testing, software considerations, verification, and quality management:

  • Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) Standards5
  • Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standards6
  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standards7
  • AS9100 Standard8

Addressing Regulatory Gaps in the Advancing UAM Landscape

Even with these current regulations and standards in place, many gaps still exist. Certification categories and requirements need to be further defined to address novel UAM technology and its continued advancements. Modified and/or new regulations are especially needed to address remotely piloted and autonomous UAM systems and privacy concerns.

As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, UAM manufacturers will need a robust system to keep track of the latest requirements and streamline compliance.


UAM vehicles are designed with advanced features and technologies (e.g., electric/tilt-wing propulsion, VTOL, autonomous hardware and software) to support intracity and intercity transportation and adapt to changing surroundings. Because the design and manufacture of these products involves many electrical, mechanical, and software components, specialized engineering teams must work together to ensure that systems operate and communicate properly.

Products incorporate custom and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts and subsystems that are sourced from multiple suppliers. Thus, companies need complete visibility into supply chain activities to ensure that parts are not counterfeit, comply with regulations, and can be sourced on time.

Having parts lists, compliance evidence, and other supplier information readily accessible to key stakeholders in a controlled, centralized location ensures that the right product gets built on schedule.

Male and Female A&D Engineers


Traditionally, manufacturers have relied on disparate systems to manage product development. Engineering teams work with computer-aided design software to create and share designs. Operations and quality teams typically use spreadsheets, shared directories, email, and even paper to manage change orders, product requirements, and other critical items.

This disconnected approach creates communication gaps and silos that impede product development. It becomes difficult to identify the latest design revisions and keep track of requirement changes when information is stored in multiple locations. Since quality information is not tied directly to the product record, product teams and supply chain partners lack complete visibility into design defects and other quality issues.

In the end, companies encounter costly production errors, delayed time to market, audit violations, and other commercialization roadblocks.


To make headway in this new and evolving market, UAM manufacturers need an efficient and controlled way to execute product work.

Enterprise Cloud PLM solutions provide a secure, centralized platform for organizations to manage product and quality information and drive compliant practices. The entire product record comprised of electrical, mechanical, and software components is aggregated in a single source of truth. From engineering, quality, and procurement to suppliers and contract manufacturers—everyone can securely access, review, and optimize the design before releasing it to manufacturing.

Streamlining Product Development With Arena PLM for AWS GovCloud

A cloud-native solution like Arena PLM for AWS GovCloud streamlines processes further by linking quality records and associated changes directly to the product bill of materials (BOM). By managing these linked relationships and automating change processes, teams gain greater traceability and visibility into nonconformances throughout the development cycle. In turn, they can resolve issues and get compliant products to market faster.


With ongoing technological advancements and the push for more sustainable and efficient modes of transportation, UAM is primed to become a permanent fixture in our everyday lives. That said, there are still many hurdles to overcome. UAM manufacturers must be well-equipped to keep up with evolving regulations and get on the right path to product certification. By leveraging a cloud-native PLM solution, organizations can stay on track to meeting their compliance goals and making UAM commercialization a reality.

Interested to see Arena PLM for AWS GovCloud in action? Watch this demo.


  1. Reports and Data. Urban Air Mobility Market
  2. EASA Publishes World’s First Rules for Operation of Air Taxis in Cities
  3. Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulations (Part 107)
  4. UAM Concept of Operations (ConOps)
  5. RTCA Standards Documents
  6. SAE Standards
  7. ASTM Standards and Publications
  8. AS9100 Standard