Planning for Advanced Air Mobility

PAS Report 606

By Adam Cohen, Susan Shaheen, Yolanka Wulff

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This report is available free to all. It was funded in part by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University through a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's University Transportation Centers Program.

Advanced air mobility (AAM) has the potential to impact communities' access to air mobility, goods delivery, and emergency services in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Though AAM is still in the early days of development, this emerging transportation sector could result in fundamental changes to the built environment. Communities should be prepared to minimize the potential for adverse impacts and maximize the likelihood of sustainable and equitable outcomes.

PAS Report 606, Planning for Advanced Air Mobility, presents planners and policymakers with the foundational knowledge to understand important considerations for AAM development and potential community impacts. It provides information for the public sector to integrate AAM into planning and policymaking at the local and regional levels of government, and it highlights the need for greater awareness about AAM and its potential impacts among communities, which may have little prior experience with aviation planning issues.

The report defines AAM and presents a snapshot of the current state of the industry. It addresses the potential impacts of AAM on communities and how this could shape public perception of this sector, including important social equity considerations. The report explores the potential to repurpose or create new infrastructure for AAM and integrate these facilities into existing multimodal transportation networks. It offers guidance on integrating AAM into local and regional planning and regulatory processes, and it shares the experiences of communities that are beginning to address AAM in their plans and policies.

While AAM presents opportunities, issues such as community impacts, social equity, land use compatibility, and multimodal integration could create challenges for its deployment. Planners are well-positioned to help their communities understand, prepare for, and guide the evolution of AAM. This PAS Report provides the guidance they will need.

Executive Summary

Advanced air mobility (AAM) could result in fundamental changes to land use and the built environment and transform how people access essential services (e.g., emergency and medical services), goods, and mobility. While the impacts of these innovations remain to be seen as they come online, planners and policymakers need to prepare for these changes to minimize the potential for adverse impacts and maximize the likelihood of sustainable and equitable outcomes.

This PAS Report presents planners and policymakers with the foundational knowledge to understand potential AAM considerations and community impacts, and it provides information for the public sector to integrate AAM into planning and policymaking at the local and regional levels of government. The report also discusses the role of community planners with respect to AAM, and the importance of local and regional governments working with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is the safety regulator for the U.S. aviation industry and the National Airspace System.


AAM is a broad concept focusing on emerging aviation markets and use cases for on-demand aviation in urban, suburban, and rural communities. AAM includes local use cases of about a 50-mile radius in rural or urban areas and intraregional use cases of up to a few hundred miles within or between urban and rural areas. AAM enables consumers' access to air mobility, logistics, and emergency services by dispatching or using innovative aircraft and enabling technologies through an integrated and connected multimodal network across the ground, waterways, and skies.

As envisioned, AAM will feature innovative technologies, such as vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft powered by electric batteries or hydrogen, and it will use both existing and new infrastructure, including airports, heliports, and vertiports. It includes a variety of aircraft, use cases, and business models to meet the diverse needs of travelers, consumers, air carriers, infrastructure owners, and other stakeholders.

While AAM presents opportunities for communities, issues such as community impacts, public acceptance, safety, social equity, land use impacts, multimodal integration, and other considerations around planning and implementation could create challenges. To help communities prepare for the impacts of this emerging ecosystem, planners and policymakers should be actively involved in AAM planning and implementation. Planning addresses a range of cross-cutting policy and quality-of-life issues, such as mobility, land use, environmental protection, financing, economic development, and social equity. Because of their broad, diverse, and multidisciplinary roles, planners are well positioned to help communities understand, prepare for, and guide the growth and evolution of AAM. This PAS Report is intended to help.


The concept of using aviation for shorter-range use cases in a metropolitan region is not new. This PAS Report provides an overview of the history of AAM, beginning with “flying car” concepts of the early 20th century and continuing with helicopter- based air taxi services in operation from the 1950s to the 1980s. It describes how the growth of smartphone apps and on-demand access to goods and mobility has begun to change how consumers access aviation services.

In addition to commercial activity related to passenger mobility, there are an increasing number of aviation industry developments for goods delivery and humanitarian use cases. Globally, the use of uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, for goods delivery, transporting medical samples and emergency supplies, mapping, and other professional use cases has grown rapidly. In recent years, there has been an increasing number of developments associated with AAM passenger services using innovative aircraft designs. This PAS Report offers a snapshot of the state of industry today, including an overview of market studies forecasting the potential for AAM growth.


As an emerging concept, AAM may face many barriers. This PAS Report provides an overview of the potential impacts of AAM on communities. These include potential operational concerns about safety, security, air traffic management, and weather. While local planners do not have a direct role in preparing for and managing many of these risks, it is important for them to understand the role of state and federal agencies and what is being done to address these challenges.

Additional concerns about AAM include community impacts of noise, privacy, visual pollution, energy use and emissions, and land use compatibility. These issues could affect public perceptions of AAM and have an array of effects on communities and planning practices. The report offers information on these potential impacts and how land use, zoning, infrastructure siting, and other planning and policy levers may serve as mitigation strategies.

While AAM presents potential opportunities for localities, negative community perceptions could pose challenges to AAM adoption and mainstreaming. Public perception and community acceptance will likely be influenced by its operational and community impacts. The report emphasizes the importance of social equity issues associated with AAM, such as affordability and who benefits from or bears the impacts of AAM, and the need to integrate AAM into existing multimodal transportation networks.


Considering social equity as part of AAM planning and implementation is key to ensuring broader access to its potential benefits for all, such as aeromedical services, employment opportunities and access, and economic development. This PAS Report explores the complex social equity issues related to AAM. These include the impacts associated with vertiport development and AAM operations on their immediate vicinity, concerns about affordability and accessibility of AAM flights, environmental impacts on underserved communities, and the allocation of public resources. All will be important for planners to address when considering AAM in their communities.

Identifying and understanding the social equity challenges related to AAM is critical in preventing discrimination in both processes and outcomes and ensuring access to potential AAM benefits. This PAS Report employs an evaluation framework to analyze the potential spatial, temporal, economic, physiological, and social barriers of AAM. It demonstrates how planners can evaluate the opportunities and challenges that AAM presents in the context of these five areas and envisions potential policy strategies to leverage possible opportunities and overcome key challenges.

AAM presents new challenges for planners. Historically, aviation planning processes have generally focused on aviation stakeholders and communities adjacent to airports. Because AAM has the potential to decentralize aviation impacts that have historically been limited to airport facilities and their immediate surroundings, planners will need to expand their understanding of these issues and engage diverse community and aviation stakeholders that likely have limited experience working with one another. This PAS Report explains how early and intentional stakeholder and community engagement will be important to help understand and address potential community concerns.


Deployment of AAM will require an extensive network of takeoff and landing facilities and energy infrastructure. Both the public and private sectors may need to identify how infrastructure can be repurposed with minimal physical modification, renovated and adapted, or replaced and redeveloped for AAM. However, constructing new and adapting existing infrastructure for AAM could present planning challenges, such as local concerns, high costs, and multimodal integration with other transportation modes.

This PAS Report explores a range of issues related to these concerns. It presents a taxonomy and definitions of AAM takeoff and landing infrastructure and outlines potential business models. It also discusses vertiport planning and design considerations, including forecasting and modeling, design and siting considerations, and the role of vertiport-oriented and joint development in achieving multimodal integration.

As the AAM ecosystem evolves, planners and policymakers will play important roles in the allocation of public resources, such as who can build or operate vertiports, or what service providers can have access to takeoff and landing infrastructure. As with curbside access, vertiport takeoff and landing slots and parking stalls could be a finite resource in some locations. This report describes potential options for managing competition among service providers.


Comprehensive plans—known as general plans in several states—establish the vision, goals, and policies that communities use to guide development decisions. These longer-term planning efforts offer planners and policymakers an opportunity to initiate community discussions around emerging transportation technologies that could help guide future AAM decision-making.

This PAS Report underscores the need for communities to consider AAM in the context of their long-range planning efforts. It discusses potential opportunities for integrating AAM into local and regional planning processes. Discussions from planners in Los Angeles; Orlando, Florida; and the North Central Texas Council of Governments demonstrate how planners can help to guide planning outcomes by addressing key local policy issues affecting AAM.

Local policy and regulatory considerations for AAM predominantly relate to vertiport land use compatibility issues, as addressed through local zoning, vertiport approvals and permitting, funding for AAM infrastructure, and public-private partnerships. As with comprehensive planning, ensuring that land uses adjacent to vertiports are compatible with this aviation use is important for maintaining a community's quality of life, minimizing adverse environmental and social equity impacts, and supporting the safe operations of a vertiport and its users.


AAM is a transportation strategy that has the potential to serve a variety of mobility, logistics, emergency response, aeromedical, and other use cases. Numerous studies have documented the industry's forecasted growth, and emerging research is beginning to examine the potential environmental, social, and transportation-related impacts of AAM. This highlights the need for greater awareness about AAM and its potential impacts among communities, which may have limited or no experience with aviation planning issues.

This PAS Report concludes with a summary of what is currently known and unknown about AAM. While the impacts of AAM are uncertain at present, AAM could potentially have transformational effects on the planning practice, built environment, and travel behavior. As the sector is expected to evolve over the coming decades, planners can help to prepare communities for the potential opportunities and challenges of AAM.

How planners plan and manage the physical, energy, and digital infrastructure needed for AAM deployment will likely be a key topic of conversation in the coming years. Planners and policymakers will need to decide what level of support and influence over AAM-related issues is desired by—and appropriate for—the public sector. Planning and policy are needed to guide use cases that provide broad societal benefit. Institutional capacity building, community engagement, and ongoing research will be needed to guide sustainable and equitable outcomes.

About the Authors

Adam Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a researcher with the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, and 17 years of experience as a researcher with the Mineta Transportation Institute of San Jose State University. He serves as an expert contributor and board member for the Community Air Mobility Initiative, chairs the Transportation Research Board Standing Committee on Emerging and Innovative Public Transport and Technologies (AP020), and co-teaches a UC Berkeley professional development course on airport systems planning and design.

Susan Shaheen, PhD, is a professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and Co-Director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center of the Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS)-Berkeley and directs the UC ITS' Resilient and Innovative Mobility Initiative. She served as Chair of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Executive Committee in 2021 and Vice Chair in 2020. In May 2016, she was named one of the top 10 academic thought leaders in transportation by the Eno Transportation Foundation, and she received the 2017 Roy W. Crum Award from TRB for her distinguished achievements in transportation research.

Yolanka Wulff, JD, is the Executive Director of the Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the responsible and sustainable integration of aviation into community transportation through education, communication, and collaboration. Before co-founding CAMI in 2019, she was a sustainable aviation consultant for 10 years. She is a member of the Federal Aviation Administration's Advanced Aviation Advisory Committee, the Transportation Research Board New Users of Shared Airspace Committee, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association Electric Propulsion Innovation Committee, and the Vertical Flight Society (VFS) Board of Directors, and she organizes and convenes the annual VFS Electric Aircraft Symposium.

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Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
March 8, 2024
Adobe PDF

Table of Contents


Executive Summary

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Advanced Air Mobility
What Is Advanced Air Mobility?
Key AAM Concepts
Planning for AAM Impacts
About This Report

Chapter 2: Background and State of the Industry
Flying Car Concepts
Early Air Taxi Services
Today’s State of the Industry
AAM Market Potential

Chapter 3: Potential Challenges of Advanced Air Mobility
Operational Challenges
Community Impacts
Public Perception and Community Acceptance

Chapter 4: Social Equity and Advanced Air Mobility
Potential Social Equity Impacts of AAM
Assessing AAM Through the STEPS Equity Framework
Stakeholder and Community Engagement

Chapter 5: Vertiport Infrastructure and Multimodal Integration
Types of AAM Takeoff and Landing Infrastructure
AAM Infrastructure Business Models
Vertiport Planning and Design

Chapter 6: Vertiport Planning and Design
AAM in the Comprehensive Plan
Local Policy and Regulatory Considerations for AAM
Public Investment Considerations for AAM
Partnerships and Collaboration for AAM Planning

Chapter 7: Looking Ahead
What We Know
Areas of Uncertainty
Priority Areas for Research, Engagement, and Policy
Preparing for the Future

Appendix A: Glossary

Appendix B: Acronyms Used in This Report

Appendix C: AAM Resources for Planners

Appendix D: Methodology