During this time, aviation has never ceased to innovate and in the last few years, new types of aircraft have emerged, including Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS or drones) and Urban Air Mobility (UAM) aircraft. The latter might be electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL), electric Conventional Take-off and Landing (eCTOL), and some are Personal Air Vehicles (PAV). With the development of these new aircraft types, aviation is once again taking a significant step forward. People have always dreamed of using air travel to improve transport in and around cities. UAM is the realisation of that dream, enabled by advances in technology that among other things reduce the noise and size of aircraft. UAM has the potential to revolutionise the way people and goods move in and around cities by enabling point-to-point flights, bypassing ground congestion and shortening journey times.
The term “UAM” refers to on-demand, highly automated passenger or cargo-carrying air transport services in urban and suburban environments where aviation is highly regulated today. The UAM industry vision involves an ecosystem of new vehicle designs, system technologies, airspace management constructs, operational procedures and shared services that together enable an innovative and more integrated transport network as safe as that of today.
There is a solid business case for improved commute times and accelerated transport of goods across cities. The challenge(eVTOLs, eCTOLs) and new types of operations can meet this need. Growth of UAS operations and the development of eVTOLs are bringing new applications, new business models and new concepts and operations that will cross all airspaces, and that the aviation community will have to integrate with current operations.
A large number of players, led by aerospace, automotive and technology companies are already investing billions of dollars working on UAM solutions and eVTOL technologies to enable runway-independent operations, with very high degrees of automation, up to and including fully autonomous aircraft. In this context, various studies and most operators envisage that in a few years, there will be a significant number of simultaneous operations around metropolitan areas and airports at altitudes up to 5,000 feet and speeds of up to 150 knots. Outwardly similar to a helicopter, eVTOL aircraft are somewhere between commercial aeroplanes and remotely controlled UAS, configured to typically carry cargo or 1-4 passengers on short trips (e.g. less than 100 km) into and out of urban areas.