The idea of a fully autonomous car has become widely accepted. Each year new models of car come closer and closer to the self-driving concept.
One often overlooked aspect of autonomous transportation is the idea of Urban Air Mobility. (UAM). UAM is the realisation of the pilotless air taxi, a type of drone with human cargo for ultra short-haul flights. Many companies and agencies, including NASA, are focused on the development of UAM.
Imagine deploying service engineers to your manufacturing client 30km away at short notice to solve a factory down situation. In today’s congested cites, a short trip can take an agonisingly long-time using car transportation, further contributing to urban congestion. With a UAM solution, the service engineers can be deployed in an autonomous electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and be on the client site within a few minutes.
The development of Boeing’s V22 Osprey significantly advanced VTOL technology. However, modern eVTOLs, designed for the UAM market, are very different from Boeing’s behemoth. They are sleek, light and diminutive in form, wasp-like. NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have been cooperating on developing new safety standards for operating uncrewed aircraft for several years.
Three key companies currently developing aircraft for UAM’s are
Wisk ( https://wisk.aero/)
Wisk has been developing their electric self-flying taxi, Cora, for several years. Wisk is a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk. In 2020 Wisk announced a trial with the New Zeland government on a Cora passenger transport trail.
Chinese company Ehang are developing their electric-powered passenger aircraft Autonomous Aerial Vehicle (AAV). In March 2021, Ehang announced plans to build a port for eVTOL craft in Italy.
EmbraerX are developing their UAM solution eVTO. In December 2020 EmbraerX, and Airservices, Australia’s civil air navigation service provider, developed a concept of operations for the UAM air taxi market.
The UAM market is also drawing attention from the automotive industry, keen to expand its transport solutions.
Who knows what will come of UAM? When will we take our first journey in an eVTOL? Will, UAM only be a solution for emergency services and the hyper-rich, or will they disappear into innovations bag of revenue-neutral ideas.
Let me know what you think.