AWOS for Vertiports

The Future of Air Travel is Upon Us.

With the advent of drones, both manned and unmanned, and the rise of vertical take-off and landing operations, it is easy to see how the world of aviation will look radically different in a decade than it does today.

As we prepare to step into this new era of aviation, it is essential that we step safely and confidently. If anything, the changes to the aviation world will make clear and concise weather data more important than before.

Not only is the technology behind air travel and transport advancing, but the space for airports in many parts of the world is shrinking as air traffic becomes faster and heavier. As cities grow and developable land decreases, aviation will need to learn to work and develop compact space. Vertiports will be indispensable to make the most of limited space and cater to vertical operations functioning at lower altitudes.

Vertiports allow for ease and accessibility throughout the most densely packed urban sprawl or difficult-to-navigate terrain. They are the foundation for building safe aviation infrastructure in the 21st century, and safe vertiport infrastructure requires a reliable automated weather observing system (AWOS) to provide accurate weather data.

Advanced Air Mobility

Urban and suburban communities are growing as populations shift and technology changes. With this growth comes new demands on old transportation systems which will require rethinking and retooling for the aircraft of tomorrow. Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is the future of aviation. Urban Air Mobility will utilize highly automated aircraft which operate at lower altitudes within urban and suburban areas to transport passengers and cargo. Due to their ability to use vertical take-off and landing procedures, they will require less operating space and can utilize a wider variety of infrastructure than traditional aircraft.

Since these aircraft will be operating in closer proximity to large populations with increased air traffic, accurate weather data such as crosswinds and density altitude will be crucial to the safety of their take-off and landing procedures, as well as for plotting safe flight paths.

Looking beyond the urban environment, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) will build upon the foundation of Urban Air Mobility by expanding operations outside of urban communities and into new environments and communities underserved by aviation services currently available today and revolutionizing regional and interregional networks with new aircraft and routes which up until now have been too costly or impossible to perform.

Advanced Air Mobility with include operations such as:

➤ Commercial inter-city (long range/thin haul) ➤ Cargo delivery ➤ Public services
Private/Recreational vehicles

As new infrastructure pushes forward through the urban and suburban communities and into the rural countryside and difficult-to-manage terrain, the demands for accurate weather data will only increase. Communities living in remote and harsh climates will need accurate weather data so that safe flight paths can be prepared in advance and adjusted at the drop of a hat as rain, wind, snow, ice, or fog change course or increase severity.

An AWOS system issuing METAR reports directly to NADIN with up-to-the-minute weather data not only allows for safely managing air traffic, both manned and automated, at a specific location but allows for better flight preparation and planning in advance and for aircraft already operating and flying through the surrounding airspace. 

As new infrastructure pushes forward through the urban and suburban communities and into the rural countryside and difficult-to-manage terrain, the demands for accurate weather data will only increase.

What are Vertiports?

Just as a heliport or helipad is a designated space for a helicopter to perform landing and take-off procedures, a vertiport is a collective term referring to the area designated for Advanced Air Mobility Aircraft to take off and land safely utilizing vertical operations.

Due to the versatility of Advanced Air Mobility Aircraft, a vertiport can be safely built on top of buildings such as hospitals for easy access and safe transport of patients and medical necessities, in suburban communities to easily deliver cargo to stores and communities, as a hub to an existing airport to expand operations, or even as simple as a landing pad by a bus stop for increased passenger mobility.

As Advanced Air Mobility Aircraft propagate and increase in popularity, the public’s comfort and trust in them will go up, leading to increased air traffic as they replace traditional modes of transportation both public and private.

Managing weather patterns and atmospheric pressures at vertiports will be extremely important. Weather patterns such as wind, rain, fog, snow, and temperature can all have an impact on flight safety and pilots and operators will need to know weather data when making their vertical approach and landing procedures or take-offs. Air Traffic Control rely on solid weather data to manage heavy air traffic patterns, and the demands will only be greater with increase vertiport adoption across the country and globe.

Vertiports will serve as the infrastructure bridge between existing aviation and the aircraft of tomorrow.
They will guide airport owners, pilots and operators, and infrastructure developers to move safely and seamlessly into the era of Advanced Air Mobility.

Utilize Existing Infrastructure

As UAM and AAM aircraft become more popular and air traffic patterns increase, infrastructure will have to evolve to accommodate the aerodrome's changing traffic patterns and machines with the construction and maintenance of vertiports.

For the time being, Advanced Air Mobility Aircraft will utilize and adapt to the current ecosystem and infrastructure of helicopters, such as routes, helipads, air traffic control (ATC) services, and AWOS/ASOS weather data.

Clear and concise weather information will be particularly important as existing infrastructure expands to accommodate the aircraft of the future. According to the FAA, every year nearly 70% of all flight delays in traditional aircraft are caused by weather.

Weather delays cost money and time and the more information available, the better chance pilots and ATC have of alleviating some of the pressures. Even when weather isn’t causing a delay, sudden changes in weather or extreme weather patterns have an impact on traditional aircraft performance and will still have an impact on Advanced Air Mobility Aircraft. The best tools are automated weather observing systems that keep those on the ground and pilots in the air well informed.

Looking to the future, the FAA has issued draft interim guidance to support the design and operation of facilities that electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft will use.

Weather’s Impact on Vertical Take-Offs and Landing Aircraft

Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft are particularly susceptible to wind while flying or performing VTOL procedures. Crosswinds and headwinds can slow the aircraft considerably, and tailwinds can speed them up. If the wind direction changes rapidly, it makes flying dangerous, and performing a takeoff or landing procedure requires substantially more skill. If a vertiport is handling heavy traffic and trying to manage several VTOL aircraft at once, having accurate weather information is vital and can make the difference between a success and an accident.

VTOL Aircraft are also significantly impacted by lightning. Lightning can damage an aircraft and impact cargo and passengers aboard.

In built-up urban centers tracking lightning can become particularly difficult due to electronic interference, so the best equipment is necessary to get the best results possible. Substitute and bargain basement lightning sensors can fail or send off too many false positives to be useful. Snow, ice, fog, and sleet can also impact the landing and takeoff operations at vertiports, making the landing area slippery and dangerous.

It is vital to track the weather conditions at a vertiport so that ATC, pilots, and airport personnel can make informed choices about whether an aircraft can safely land or should be diverted to nearby airports.

AWOS for Vertiports

Understanding the weather is paramount for all airports to help ensure the safety of their passengers, personnel, and cargo. Advanced Air Mobility Aircraft will not be an exception to this rule. An Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) plays a crucial role in understanding the weather and interpreting it for airport personnel. AWOS measures a variety of meteorological parameters and processes the data using unique algorithms to automatically create official observations (METARs).

The METARs and one-minute observations are broadcast to aviation personnel to keep them advised of current weather conditions. These METARs are useful during the takeoff and landing procedures as well as in-flight data to help pilots understand the weather they are flying through.

In Engineering Brief #105 on Vertiport Design, the FAA has recommended that vertiports install and maintain an FAA-Certified AWOS system as outlined in The Advisory Circular: AC 150/5220-16E - Automated Weather Observing Systems (AWOS) for Non-Federal Applications.

This AWOS system will automatically broadcast current weather conditions at the vertiport site as they do at airports. They recommend installing an AWOS at least 100 feet (30.5 meters) from the vertiport, but no more than 700 feet (213 meters) to protect the instruments from the propellers involved in vertical takeoff and landing operations.

These recommendations are particularly highlighted if the vertiport being designed and built will be subject to winter operations. Swirling snow from the propeller can cause a pilot or operator to lose sight of the intended landing point. Not only should a vertiport be clearly labeled and lit considering whiteout conditions from snow taken under advisement, but an AWOS system that can help keep pilots informed of changing winter weather conditions can also give pilots and ATC the edge in maintaining safe operations and timely at a vertiport.

Catching a Taxi of the Future

Imagine, instead of rushing to catch a crowded bus after work when it’s raining out and having to stand in a crowded aisle, you wait in the queue at the local vertiport for the next available AAM taxi to land, powered by electricity and fully charged.

Instead of getting stuck in stop and go traffic due to construction, you glide through the air to the vertiport closest to your home. Instead of navigating unsafe driving conditions from a sudden snowstorm, your operator has the most advanced streaming weather data right in front of them on their mobile device and is prepared to safely navigate changing weather patterns and make well informed decisions.

The future of aviation is upon us.

Looking to the future with Mesotech

Mesotech provides FAA-Type Certified Automated Weather Observing Systems (AWOS) at various levels to suit a vertiport’s weather needs. The systems are customizable and adaptable and are remotely monitored by Mesotech’s onsite support staff to keep systems running without incident year-round and in all kinds of weather. Whether your vertiport needs just the basics or the total package, Mesotech can provide an FAA Certified AWOS for your needs.