North Carolina-based nonprofit AeroX has taken major steps toward building a regional advanced air mobility (AAM) ecosystem since forming in 2021, including launching the development of what business and community leaders expect to become the nation’s first urban unmanned air traffic management system (UTM).
These and other results are captured in the organization’s first annual report, AeroX Takes Flight in North Carolina.
“Competition is heating up across the country as states and communities recognize AAM’s potential to propel economic growth. By leveraging North Carolina’s leadership in unmanned aviation and positioning our state as a leader in AAM, we are attracting innovative companies that will grow all sectors of our economy and provide high-value jobs for our communities,” said AeroX Chair Michael Baughan.
AAM refers to an emerging air transportation system for moving cargo and, ultimately, people using revolutionary unmanned aircraft with advanced technologies, including autonomous electric aircraft and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Studies estimate the AAM market could reach $1 trillion annually by 2040, potentially creating more than 280,000 jobs.
AeroX’s strategic plan, adopted in 2021, calls for three broad strategies to capitalize on these transformative technologies: create an organization to manage the work, build America’s first urban UTM and build an AAM ecosystem. Among its results to date, AeroX:
- Formed a 501(c)(6) industry association to accelerate AAM in the state and a 501(c)(3) to raise money for workforce development and other AAM-supportive initiatives.
- Launched a financial campaign, raising $5 million grant from the N.C. General Assembly to build AAM infrastructure and $150,000 plus in annual membership for operations and programs.
- Developed a concept of operations for a UTM, called ATLAS, that will enable AAM and secured vendors to build out the system.
- Identified corporate partners that will help enable three key use cases for ATLAS: unmanned package delivery (UPS Flight Forward, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist), public safety (Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department) and infrastructure inspections (Duke Energy).
- Launched an AAM weather impact study to assess industry needs and locations for sensors that can enable AAM in communities across the state.
- Facilitated Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office launch of North Carolina’s first drones-as-first-responders program.
- Formed a partnership with Elizabeth City State University, a major N.C. minority-serving institution, and Piedmont Flight Training in Winston-Salem to support the university’s online four-year aviation sciences degree program, with exclusive flight training support in Forsyth County.