Today, innovators like Airbus, Volocopter GmbH, and Urban Aeronautics are making headlines with their unveiling of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs). Although still in its infancy, the global urban air mobility (UAM) market is projected to reach $15.54 billion (USD) in revenue and achieve a 29.9% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) by 20301

What’s driving this growth?

Due to rise in population and rapid urbanization, cities are dealing with longer commute times, increased road traffic, pollution, and other public safety hazards. Government entities and companies are now under pressure to introduce more efficient modes of transportation that minimize urban congestion and reduce their environmental impact. With the certification process already underway for some manufacturers, UAM commercialization is expected to begin as early as this year.

Despite the growth potential, there are many legal and regulatory barriers with getting UAM products to market. They include:

  • Identifying cybersecurity and safety risks
  • Determining what product functionality and infrastructure need to be regulated (e.g., airworthiness, traffic management, landing site management)
  • Identifying gaps in requirements and means of compliance
  • Determining optimal path to product certification

Perhaps the greatest challenge is cultivating social acceptance. How do you build trust in a technology that is relatively new and address consumers’ safety, noise, and privacy concerns?

Here, we further explore some of the product development hurdles that UAM manufacturers face as they try to gain momentum in this fledgling market. We also review how a product-centric enterprise quality management system (eQMS) can help companies meet their compliance goals and achieve commercialization success.

Product Development Challenges for UAM Manufacturers

Evolving Regulatory Landscape
Because UAM aircraft incorporate novel design features, they require their own set of classifications as well as performance and safety criteria. Consequently, several countries are establishing a new regulatory framework for the certification of UAM transportation. It encompasses standards around airworthiness, airspace, operations, and infrastructure. 

Airworthiness certification standards establish requirements for aircraft design, manufacturing, performance, failure response, and maintenance. They typically apply to features such as aircraft structure, propellers, software, and electronics.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), and Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) are key authorities that govern aviation safety worldwide. Thus far, EASA has released a set of proposed airworthiness standards, primarily focusing on small VTOL aircraft.2 The CAAC has issued guidance for certifying unmanned aerial vehicle airworthiness after consulting with Chinese VTOL manufacturers.3  

Additionally, the FAA has joined forces with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to define the commercial operations of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule (Part 107) outlines operational limitations, pilot responsibilities, and aircraft requirements.4 The two authorities have also developed the UAM Concept of Operations (ConOps), a working document which defines a future state of UAM operations that would allow for increased autonomy and operational tempos across major metropolitan areas and suburbs.5  

At the U.S. state and local levels, laws have been enacted to prohibit drones in certain areas and protect the health, safety, and privacy of residents. Other laws exist to protect the operations of unmanned aerial systems when used for applications such as emergency response and law enforcement.6

Standards associated with domains similar to UAM provide companies a means of compliance and help inform UAM certification. They cover areas such as design, testing, software considerations, verification, and quality management. 

  • Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) Standards7

o   DO-160 - Environmental Conditions and Test Procedures for Airborne Electronic/Electrical Equipment and Instruments

o   DO-178C - Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification

o   DO-254 - Design Assurance Guidance for Airborne Electronic Hardware

  • Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Standards8

o   ARP4761 - Guidelines and Methods for Conducting the Safety Assessment Process on Civil Airborne Systems and Equipment; in conjunction with ARP4754, ARP4761

o   ARP4754A - Certification Considerations for Highly Integrated or Complex Aircraft Systems

  • American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standards9 

o   F3201 – 16 - Standard Practice for Ensuring Dependability of Software Used in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

o   F3269 – 17 - Standard Practice for Methods to Safely Bound Flight Behavior of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Containing Complex Functions

o   F3298 – 18 - Standard Specification for Design, Construction, and Verification of Fixed-Wing Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

  • AS9100 Standard10

o   AS9100 is based on the principles of ISO 9001. It provides aviation, aerospace, and defense manufacturers guidelines for implementing a QMS. Key areas of focus include product safety, ethics training, supplier monitoring, and counterfeit parts.

Even with these current regulations and standards in place, many gaps still exist. Certification categories and requirements need to be further defined to address novel UAM technology and its continued advancements. Modified and/or new regulations are especially needed to address remotely piloted and autonomous UAM systems as well as privacy concerns.

As the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, UAM manufacturers will need a robust system to keep track of the latest requirements and streamline compliance. 

Product Complexity
UAM vehicles are designed with advanced features and technologies (e.g., electric/tilt-wing propulsion, VTOL, autonomous hardware and software) to support intracity and intercity transportation and adapt to changing surroundings. Because the design and manufacture of these products involves many electrical, mechanical, and software components, specialized engineering teams must work together to ensure that systems operate and communicate properly.

Products incorporate both custom and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) parts and subsystems that are sourced from multiple suppliers. Thus, companies need complete visibility into supply chain activities to ensure that parts are not counterfeit, they comply with regulations, and can be sourced on time.

Having parts lists, compliance evidence, and other supplier information readily accessible to key stakeholders in a controlled, centralized location ensures that the right product gets built on schedule.

Requirements Management
Requirements management involves defining, analyzing, tracing, prioritizing, and agreeing on product requirements and then communicating changes to relevant stakeholders. This process occurs throughout the product development cycle and leading up to the product launch. The goal is to ensure that design outputs match the design inputs.

Research shows that 91% of organizations still use spreadsheets and electronic documents to track requirements11. Since these systems are not tied to the product record, cross-functional teams lack full visibility into quality issues, customer needs, design defects, and other dependencies that impact new product introduction. 

Disconnected Systems
Traditionally, manufacturers have relied on many different systems to manage the product development process. Engineering teams work with computer-aided design software to create and share designs. Operations and quality teams typically use spreadsheets, shared directories, email, and even paper to manage change orders and other critical processes.

These manual, disconnected approaches create communication gaps and silos that impede product development. It becomes difficult to identify the latest design revisions and keep track of requirement changes when information is stored in multiple locations. As a result, contract manufacturers and suppliers work from inaccurate bills of materials (BOMs), and procurement teams specify the wrong tooling. This culminates in production errors that require costly scrap and rework. Since quality information is not linked directly to the product record, it is difficult to have complete visibility into design defects and other quality issues.

In the end, companies must deal with increased costs, delayed time to market, audit violations, and other commercialization roadblocks.

How a Product-Centric QMS Helps UAM Take Flight
To make headway in this new and evolving market, UAM manufacturers need an efficient and controlled way to execute product work.

Enterprise cloud QMS solutions serve as a secure, centralized platform for organizations to manage product and quality information and drive compliant practices. The entire product record comprised of electrical, mechanical, and software components is aggregated in a single source of truth. Whether it’s engineering, quality, procurement, suppliers, or contract manufacturers—everyone can access, review, and optimize the design before releasing it to manufacturing.

A product-centric approach to QMS streamlines processes further by linking quality records (e.g., corrective and preventive actions, training, configuration management), compliance evidence, requirements, and engineering changes directly to the product BOM. By managing these linked relationships and automating processes, product-centric eQMS solutions provide teams with greater traceability and visibility into nonconformances throughout the development cycle. In turn, they can resolve issues quickly and get compliant products to market faster.

With ongoing technological advancements and the push for more sustainable and efficient modes of transportation, UAM is primed to become a permanent fixture in our everyday lives. That said, there are still many hurdles to overcome. UAM manufacturers must be well-equipped to keep up with evolving regulations and get on the right path to product certification. By leveraging a product-centric eQMS solution, organizations can stay on track to meeting their compliance goals and making UAM commercialization a reality.

Contact Arena, a PTC Business to learn more.

About Arena: A PTC Business, Arena provides secure cloud-native product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management system (QMS) solutions to help regulated companies design, produce, and deliver products to market fast. With over 1,300 global customers spanning innovative technology companies, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), Arena is a proven solution with the expertise to meet customers’ complex product development needs. Visit to learn more.


1 Reports and Data. Urban Air Mobility Market

2 EASA Publishes Word’s First Rules for Operation of Air Taxis in Cities

CAAC Issued “Guidance on UAV Airworthiness Certification” 

4 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulations (Part 107)   

5 UAM Concept of Operations (ConOps) v1.0

6 Urban Air Mobility Market Study

7 RTCA Standards Documents

8 SAE Standards

9 ASTM Standards and Publications

10 AS9100 Standard

11 Modern Approach to New Product Introduction (NPI): Sustainable Growth Via Profitable, High-Quality NPI (eBook). LNS Research. 2018