Purdue University Graduate School

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An Exploration and Demonstration of System Modeling for Profitable Urban Air Mobility Operations Using Simulation and Optimization

posted on 2023-08-09, 19:09 authored by Brandon E SellsBrandon E Sells

The research effort addressed important gaps in the modeling to simulate Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operations and couple optimization analyses for vehicle design, fleet allocations, and operational choices for next generation urban travel. Urban Air Mobility is expected to be a \$1 trillion dollar industry by 2040, but operators and designers have limited models and tools to estimate fleet performance, cost metrics, emissions performance, and profit for a given concept under future concepts of operations. A review of the literature reveals 14 modeling gaps related to infrastructure, operations, airspace, vehicles, and customers. In addition, the UAM industry requires better understanding of how operational choices may impact vehicle design and fleet allocations in a market with significant economic barriers and infrastructure needs. To address those needs, this effort proposed alternatives to address modeling challenges and develop studies to evaluate UAM vehicle concepts and concepts of operations in ways once not possible using the enhanced modeling tools. The research findings revealed that modeling coupled design/fleet and operational choices can affect daily profitability potential by 2-4\times\, for piloted and autonomous operations and affect the fleet size from between 12-50 vehicles across small, medium, and large metropolitan areas. The modeling capability provided by the improvements in UAM operations simulations and accessing vehicle and fleet metrics enables future studies to address UAM in a holistic manner. The increased capability could benefit the UAM community and inform future operations and concepts of operations in preparation for ubiquitous operations.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Bill Crossley

Additional Committee Member 2

Daniel DeLaurentis

Additional Committee Member 3

Karen Marais

Additional Committee Member 4

Dengfeng Sun

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