Nasa simulates air taxis at busy airport

  • January 2, 2024
  • Steve Rogerson

Nasa has completed a series of airspace simulations with air traffic controllers to evaluate how air taxi operations can be integrated into today’s airspace.

The simulations were carried out at Nasa’s Future Flight Central virtual tower facility in collaboration with California-based Joby Aviation, a company developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial passenger service.

Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California evaluated how air taxi operations can be integrated into today’s airspace, including at busy airports, using existing air traffic control tools and procedures.

The simulations, jointly developed by Joby and Nasa airspace engineers following a multi-year airspace study, tested scenarios with dozens of eVTOL aircraft per hour flying into and out of the busy airspace in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) region using today’s airspace system.

The activity took place at Nasa’s Future Flight Central, a high-fidelity virtual tower facility offering a 360-degree view of a real-time simulation of an airport, where a team of Nasa and Joby engineers, as well as pilots and air traffic controllers, simulated traffic patterns at Dallas Love Field (DAL) and DFW airports, representative of complex and busy airspace.

During the simulation, participating teams of controllers virtually tested the ability to integrate up to 120 eVTOL operations – arrivals or departures – per hour from DFW’s central terminal area, alongside the airport’s existing traffic. Up to 45 simulated eVTOL aircraft were simultaneously aloft in DFW’s Class B airspace during the activity.

“Working alongside our Nasa colleagues, we have now demonstrated in a real-world simulation how air taxi operations can take place in today’s airspace system, alongside active airport traffic, using tools and procedures currently available to air traffic controllers,” said Tom Prevot, air taxi product lead at Joby. “These successful simulations were made possible by years of careful planning and collaboration between two organisations committed to redefining what is possible, and we’re proud to be paving the way towards the scaled commercialisation of air taxis in the national airspace system.”

Following scenarios developed by Nasa and Joby airspace engineers, participating controllers employed some of the highly-structured routes and procedures used today in busy low-altitude airspace regions, including letters of agreement and dedicated controller positions to scale air taxi operations without impacting existing traffic.

Nasa and Joby engineers hosted representatives from the FAA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) to observe the simulation. Nasa plans to publish a complete analysis of the simulation results later this year, sharing data with the industry and the FAA.

“We’re trying to enable a better quality of life,” said Savvy Verma, urban air mobility researcher at Nasa Ames. “Some people are stuck in traffic for hours on the way to the airport. A 12-mile [19.3km] trip can take 45 minutes. Imagine being able to do that same trip in 15 minutes. There is so much momentum across the world for advanced air mobility. We’ve been talking about integrating these kinds of vehicles into the airspace, but to be able to show it in high-fidelity simulation is very promising.”

More details of Nasa’s research can be found at:

Joby Aviation ( is a California-based transportation company developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing air taxi which it intends to operate as part of a fast, quiet, and convenient service in cities around the world.