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Northwestern University

Advancing Air Mobility in Illinois

SPONSOR: Illinois Department of Transportation
BY: Northwestern University Transportation Center
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Hani S. Mahmassani, Laurence Audenaerd, Breton Johnson

Advanced air mobility (AAM) is a nascent market within the aviation sector of Illinois’ transportation system, promising enhanced movement of people and cargo to previously inaccessible or underserved locations. This project addresses AAM’s prospects and impacts in the state. The research encompasses several tasks, starting with an examination of the current and projected state of the AAM industry, including pertinent regulations, technology advancements, and key industry players. Task two involves identifying the potential scale, operational profiles, and safety considerations of AAM within Illinois. Task three addresses the diverse geographic and operational environments across the state, encompassing urban, suburban, rural, intra-regional, and inter-regional areas, as well as congested and uncongested airspace.

The project aims to explore how AAM may influence Illinois’ overall transportation system, including surface and aviation components. The surface transportation system aspect involves investigating potential vehicular traffic impacts, shifts, and reductions, while the aviation system aspect includes assessing the interaction with unmanned aircraft systems, helicopters, and low-level traffic as well as airport access and routing considerations. Enabling infrastructure and facility requirements, such as communication, surface transportation access, landing facilities, power and fuel availability, and utilities, are identified in task five. Subsequently, state-level policy and regulatory recommendations, aligned with federal and state statutes, are developed in task six, considering the Illinois Aviation System Plan.

Last, the research provides a high-level assessment of potential impacts, encompassing economic, social, and environmental aspects. The project’s outcomes are expected to enhance Illinois Department of Transportation’s preparedness for AAM implementation, contributing to the progressive integration of this transformative aviation technology within the state’s transportation landscape.

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