AFWERX and NASA strengthen interagency partnership

  • Published
  • By Kristen Dennis
NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER, Calif. – After a series of capability site visits, AFWERX and NASA have strengthened their partnership to better reach advanced air mobility goals.

As a research institution, NASA first partnered with AFWERX in 2020 to gain access to military resources for their projects, such as subject matter experts, restricted airspace, electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft and program management. Both agencies also collaborated with the Federal Aviation Administration to help coordinate commercial certification for their projects and inform generic regulations for the emerging technologies.

As the technologies developed, Parimal Kopardekar, NASA Aeronautics Research Institution director, met with Darshan Divakaran, AFWERX Airspace Innovation and Prime Partnerships lead, to determine how to strengthen the relationship between the agencies. In addition to writing a series of agreements of cooperation, they arranged four site visits to get their agency leadership and experts together and determine how to best collaborate on efforts in the future.  AFWERX Prime leadership and experts visited NASA’s Langley, Armstrong, Glenn and Ames Research Centers earlier this year. During the visits, the Prime team received an in-depth tour of the resources and areas of expertise available at each of the research centers in relation to AFWERX Prime efforts. NASA showcased their testing facilities, brought in their best-in-class employees, and discussed their similar future AAM goals. This included AAM’s commercial viability ecosystem and determined how the two organizations could best collaborate with each other to avoid duplicative efforts and hasten the creation of the safe and secure airspace of the future.

“While AFWERX and NASA have had partnerships for years, these site visits were monumental in collaboration building,” Kopardekar said. “We at NASA were able to hear firsthand from the AFWERX team what gaps they’d like to fill in the near-term.”

“Interagency collaboration is key,” Divakaran said. “NASA has the strength in research and we have the strength in operational capability. When you combine research and operational capability, it will be a stronger message to the nation that the U.S. is looking at scaling AAM.”  The emergence of AAM is a growing priority among both the military and consumer sector. The 117th Congress recently passed a law that the U.S. Department of Transportation would lead an interagency AAM working group. Through partnerships with those agencies, AFWERX is on the forefront of that effort.

“We want to do this as a nation and as a national effort,” said Lt. Col. John Tekell, AFWERX Autonomy Prime chief. “The way to do that is through partnerships like this.”

This month, AFWERX Prime’s AIPP team led a technology interchange meeting to finalize the partnership, create a path forward, and to assign tasks to each party. These meetings will be a regular occurrence to ensure that AAM goals are aligned and progressing as quickly and safely as possible.

AFWERX hopes that the success of the NASA partnership will show other agencies the impact that such cooperation can have on commercial viability, and will lead to more such partnerships in the future.

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit

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