Understandably, society views Urban Air Mobility (UAM) in this way, however, the rapid increase in use-cases, investments, and infrastructure being introduced around the globe may prove that this assumption may be wrong.
In February, the first airport designated to ‘flying taxis’ started being built in Coventry, UK, as a carbon-neutral, zero-emissions hotspot for travel. The vision is that air-taxis or electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles will provide a platform to transport both people and goods in urban airspace, easing the congestion that we’re so used to seeing on the ground. Moreover, the UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) is investing £125 million into its ‘Future flight challenge’ scheme to develop more sustainable methods of flying. São Paulo, Brazil, a city with a heavily-congested road network and host to the highest concentration of helicopters in the world, is working with the Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC) to drive forward the type certificate validation process for eVTOL, and Volocopter, the German aircraft manufacturer, is to provide eVTOL’s to France and Singapore in the next three years. These are just some examples of developments happening within the industry and the potential the market has.
The point is that flying cars is not as futuristic as we think. It won't only begin happening in 50-years– it’s happening now. We are witnessing drone delivery scaled up 100 times to generate the second aviation revolution – which is way more elaborate and progressive than the average person, including those in the industry, recognize. Aviation firms must jump on the bandwagon and implement necessary business decisions and strategies sooner rather than later, otherwise they risk being left behind.
It comes as no surprise that globally, sustainable flying is the new vision and companies are seeking the perfect formula to penetrate this market which is potentially worth trillions of dollars. With the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) addressing current environmental issues and a rising global population, significant emphasis has been placed on the need to save the planet by developing a sustainable ecosystem.
eVTOL’s offer air travel that is completely electric and operates significantly quieter than other alternatives, so they meet appropriate environmental standards in terms of fuel and noise pollution. On top of this, the technology can be utilized to transport people and goods at a cheaper cost, therefore they improve access, travel times, and business bottom-lines respectively.
On the other hand, businesses and the public alike are setting back implementation in certain cases due to a reluctance to trust autonomous flight, just as we’ve seen in the autonomous vehicle market on the ground. Whilst the prospect of flying without a pilot may seem daunting at first and take some persuading, AI, and Machine Learning (ML) is becoming more and more visible in the mainstream and by the time air taxis are fully commercialized, consumers will be accustomed to the technology. If we can deliver coffee, sushi, and medical supplies to people, why can’t we scale up to include humans and cargo? The world’s transport and supply chain logistics certainly need it!
UAM companies are constantly receiving requests to discuss UAM projects from both public and private companies worldwide looking to prepare for the huge opportunity this second airborne revolution represents. Some of the 100+ companies investing in the sector see technology launched as early as 2025, but that will be for the early adopters. Serious commercial launches could come by 2030.
While that’s still some time off, I urge the industry to prepare now. Where road networks are so often suboptimal because they were designed for the world of the 1940s, we now have the opportunity to prepare the airspace infrastructure for the change that is coming. Let’s not wait for 2030, let’s implement it now for the safe and efficient integration of drones, air taxis, and other air vehicles in urban environments.
The ability to manage all air vehicles in the same skies is undeniably important and will allow people, and their businesses, to live better and more efficient lives. With the added sustainability benefits, the opportunities and applications for air taxis are endless and will only improve as AI and ML improve. Imagine a world where we don’t have the frustration of long traffic jams or delayed services when travelling from city to city. Aerospace firms must act now, as this conceptualization will soon become a realization.
Written by Eyal Zor, CEO and Founder of Airwayz