By definition, Urban Air Mobility envisions a safe and efficient aviation transportation system that will use highly automated aircraft, and operate and transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes within urban and suburban areas.
Developed in response to rising traffic congestion, it usually refers to existing and emerging technologies such as traditional helicopters, vertical-takeoff and landing (VTOL), electrically propelled vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft (eVTOL), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
A brief history
The early 1900s saw the development of the earliest predecessors of UAM aircraft-for instance Glenn Curtiss’s Autoplane- a concept “flying car”, developed in 1917.
The Berliner No. 5 was one of the first vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft (VTOLs) to be built in 1924, having recorded its best performance when it reached a height of 4.57 m (15 ft) during a one-minute, thirty-five-second flight.
The Avrocar was a disk-shaped aircraft designed for military use although it was phased out in 1961 due to issues with thrust and stability.
The history, current developments, and anticipated milestones of UAM can be broadly classified into six phases, namely:
- “flying car” concepts from the early 1910s to the 1950s
- early UAM operations using scheduled helicopter services from the 1950s to the 1980s
- re-emergence of on-demand services starting in the 2010s
- corridor services using vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) envisioned for the 2020s
- hub and spoke services
- point-to-point services
Urban Air Mobility market forecast(s)
The UAM market is projected to grow from USD 2.6 billion in 2022 to USD 28.3 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 34.3% from 2022 to 2030, with the need for green energy and alternate mode of transportation as potential drivers.
Based on platform operations, the Urban Air Mobility market has been segmented into autonomous and piloted. The piloted segment is projected to grow at the highest share.
The Europe urban air mobility market is projected to grow at the second-highest rate of 19.1% during the forecast period.
Some of the key players profiled in the urban air mobility market report include Airbus (US), Archer Aviation (US), EHang (China), Hyundai motor group tech (South Korea) and Wingcopter (Germany) amongst many others.
Regulatory bodies such as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the European Defence Agency (EDA), the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), and the European Air Transport Command will play a crucial role in ensuring transportation safety and addressing issues related to air transport.
Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)
Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) builds upon the UAM concept by incorporating use cases not specific to operations in urban environments, namely :
- Commercial Inter-city (Longer Range/Thin Haul)
- Cargo Delivery
- Public Services
- Private / Recreational Vehicles
In the U.S., AAM is spearheaded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the aerospace industry. AAM encompasses the evolution and safety of aircraft systems, flight operations, airspace, infrastructure, and community engagement.
AAM market forecast(s)
The global advanced aerial mobility market is expected to be valued at $16.81 billion in 2025, and reach $110.02 billion in 2035, registering a CAGR of 21.7 %.
Key players include AeroMobil, Airbus S.A.S., Flytrex, Hyundai Motor Company, Lilium, Matternet, PAL-V International B.V., The Boeing Company, Volocopter GmbH and Zipline.
Potential barriers to successful implementation
1. Zoning and construction
UAM vehicles, or eVTOLs, are envisioned as picking up passengers at a “vertiport” and dropping them
off at either an airport or another vertiport. Local concerns such as zoning ordinances and construction permits, safety, noise and congestion issues are likely to be faced by operators.
2. Aerial trespassing
Trespass simply means the intrusion into someone else’s property without his/her permission to unlawfully enter and this could be yet another hurdle the operators might have to encounter.
3. Airport regulation(s)
Airports being testing grounds of various aerial vehicle technologies, are now innovating to integrate autonomous technology into their operations, many are going digital. Airport authorities and local governments with jurisdiction over airports are also likely to be major players in the regulation of UAM.
Some AAM myths debunked
1. Advanced air mobility is all eVTOL, air taxis and nothing more
AAM being the least efficient form of electric aircraft, cannot compete with an eCTOL aircraft like the Eviation Aircraft Alice or Tecnam Aircraft PVolt on efficiency, payload, range and speed.
2. Airtaxis and eVTOLs are synonymous
The term “airtaxi” is far older than commercial VTOLs and refers to any air charter, including (e)CTOL aircraft. What’s interesting is that the biggest users of VTOL are business aviation, emergency services, law enforcement and the military, with “airtaxis”, both air shuttles and private, making up a small percentage of flight hours by helicopters.
3. Battery-powered aircraft have a limited range
Technically yes. But then, when was the last time you heard of a narrowbody being deployed on super extreme short routes, like Boston-NY, for instance. No-brainer.
4. UAM is a new-found concept
July 1939 – The first cargo UAM flights were conducted in Philadelphia by the US Postal Service, operating a Pitcairn Autogyro.
July 1953- The first recorded passenger UAM service between Idelwild (JFK) Airport and Manhattan.
As can be seen, the concept of UAM has been around since the 1900s.
5.eVTOL – the next gamechanger in aviation
Sounds too good to be true. Perhaps it is. Maybe not. Either way, eCTOL and electric aircraft particularly are more likely to transform aviation and not “necessarily” a niche segment like eVTOL.
That said, it is interesting to note that the industry has received substantial investments and today there are more than 200 companies worldwide that are engaged in the manufacture of eVTOL aircraft.
2021 specifically was a milestone year for the AAM market as eVTOL aircraft companies witnessed $5.8 billion in investments.
SOURCE(s): Advanced Air Mobility Myths – Rebellion Research by Gary Vermaak | asl_v033n03_fall2020_immellanglinais.pdf (americanbar.org) | Urban Air Mobility Market Size & Share | Industry Report, (2022-2030) | MarketsandMarkets™
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