The Urban Air Mobility (UAM) market, characterized by vehicle type, application, and geography, is an aviation term for on-demand and automated passenger or cargo-carrying air transportation services around cities and urban areas. Examples include existing and emerging technologies such as traditional helicopters, vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft (VTOL), electrically propelled vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft (eVTOL), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
How big is the UAM market and why is it significant?
According to the latest figures, the global urban air mobility market size was USD 2.90 billion in 2020. It is projected to grow from USD 3.01 billion in 2021 to USD 8.91 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 16.77% in the 2021-2028 period.
The whole concept of Urban Air Mobility revolves around a safe and efficient aviation transportation system that will use highly automated aircraft that will operate and transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes within urban and suburban areas.
With so many eVTOL companies and their subsequent projects on the rise, and with many nearing completion, it is only imperative that we have a well-defined set of global standards that would regulate their operations.
Training UAM pilots – EASA leads the way
EASA believes there is currently a need for the airship and eVTOL industries to be able to train on FSTDs before such new aircraft enter service.
In addition, new innovative FSTDs are being introduced that also include use of virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies. It should be noted that EASA has found that these innovations are also enabling better and more training in an FSTD, leading to an increasing level of safety, especially in the rotorcraft domainsays Jens Krüger, Senior Expert of Flight Crew Training FSTD at EASA
According to Kruger, “Special conditions” (SC) help expedite the current process to update the existing certification specifications for FSTD (CS-FSTD A/H) to consider both the new categories of aircraft using new technologies as well as new technologies for training devices.
Since SCs are aircraft-specific, only the aircraft manufacturers would know about the specific operation and the specific training needs, thereby the need of the hour is to work on an SC-FSTD document which would serve as a guideline and basis for upcoming FSTD evaluations for these aircraft categories.
The definition of specific training tasks necessary to operate the novel categories of aircraft and the definition of tests for the evaluation and qualification of associated training devices to cover those specific training tasks are two of the major tasks of the industry-led task force, respectively, of the individual OEMs. Another important point is to get flight test data or engineering data, following CS-SIMD operational suitability data to validate the FSTD in those areas and to be used for the evaluation and qualification of the training devices. This can only be done by the industry, not by EASASays Krüger
At the High-Level Conference on Drones conducted by EASA in March 2022, Christian Kucher-Senior Expert, Flight Crew Licencing, highlighted that pilots who fly the new eVTOL aircraft will initially be licenced through the current CS-FSTD A/H path, but with an additional type rating for the new vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
A Notice of Proposed Amendment (NPA) is expected to be issued soon with a targeted implementation of 2024. This would be followed the next year by NPA #2 to define a new VTOL Pilot Licence (VPL), which would feature both a one-time basic practical training module and an aircraft-specific practical module (following ICAO CBTA guidelines) in effect a type-rating for each aircraft the pilot wishes to fly on a commercial basis (whether carrying passengers or cargo).
While the VPL scheme is expected to hit the floors by 2025, EASA will continue to collect relevant scientific data to validate the safe operation of the new urban air mobility airships.
Developments in the making
Efforts are on to define specifications when A/M/V/XR training technology will be used in FSTDs.
The work is using the existing CS-FSTD (A/H) as a basis where validation tests will be amended or partially replaced by SCs which are tailored to the aircraft type-specific requirements and to new FSTD technologies. Although the approach to use special conditions may be the same for new technologies for FSTD, like VR/AR, the development of conditions for those immersive solutions is not part of the airship eVTOL task force’s objectivessays Krüger
VR/AR/XR is a new feature used on FSTDs, which Kruger believes, has the potential to be integrated into FFSs in the future.