Texas takes giant leap forward on flying vehicles
By Rahul Sreenivasan
It might sound like science fiction, but the first highway for flying vehicles is already being developed in the skies over Alliance Airport north of Fort Worth. And an air corridor for flying taxis and ambulances could be a reality within the next three to five years.Texas lawmakers have taken note and have made bold steps this legislative session to ensure the state’s continued leadership in the development of flying vehicle technology through passage of legislation to help guide the growth of this emerging high-tech field.
Their work came to fruition late last week when Senate Bill 2144 by state Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, and sponsored by state Rep. David Cook, R-Mansfield, was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The legislation establishes the Advanced Air Mobility Advisory Committee to address implementation of flying vehicle technology. It builds on efforts begun two years ago on urban air mobility.
What is advanced air mobility? SB 2144 defines the term as “an aviation transportation system that uses a highly automated aircraft, manned or unmanned, to transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes.”
Flying vehicles might seem exotic, but they’re as Texan as the pickup truck. NASA began collaborating with the Texas-born Vertical Flight Society nearly 10 years ago to explore opportunities in this evolving field. SB 2144 takes further steps to ensure Texas will be on track to be a leader in this trillion-dollar industry.
This legislation aims to power a coordinated push in this nascent flying vehicle technology — from private aerospace leaders like Boeing to government agencies like NASA to higher ed institutions like the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.
In addition, SB 2144 would coordinate efforts by the state’s workforce and education agencies to ensure Texans have the skills they would need to work in the air mobility industry.
SB 2144 represents a strong step in the right direction in coordinating regulations and processes to encourage development and deployment of flying vehicle technologies.
For Texas to continue being a destination for businesses and people, our state should foster an environment that incubates innovation in how we transport both goods and ourselves.
The creation of an advisory panel on air mobility will help shepherd the development of these cutting-edge technologies. While this represents just the first steps, they are important ones. If this is to become a giant leap forward for all Texans, our leaders must continue to look for innovative ways to push the air mobility industry forward in the years and decades to come.
Rahul Sreenivasan is a policy advisor at Texas 2036, working on state budget, government performance and transportation.