Swiss startup Daedalean, a developer of software for autonomous flight control, vision-based navigation, terrain guidance and landing, and Honeywell, a leader in the aerospace industry for avionics hardware, have announced that they have entered into a join technological and financial partnership. This partnerships facilitates cooperation between the two companies as they endeavor to develop fully autonomous AI pilots for general...
Swiss startup Daedalean, a developer of software for autonomous flight control, vision-based navigation, terrain guidance and landing, and Honeywell, a leader in the aerospace industry for avionics hardware, have announced that they have entered into a join technological and financial partnership. This partnerships facilitates cooperation between the two companies as they endeavor to develop fully autonomous AI pilots for general aviation and aerial mobility operations. While AI pilots are the ultimate goal for these two companies, their current hardware solution bridges the gap between fully crewed and complete autonomous flight decks.
The partnership is two-pronged: Honeywell Ventures has joined the Swiss startup’s pool of investors (terms and quantity of investment still unknown) and Honeywell and Daedalean plan to engage in joint testing and technological partnership to develop solutions for autonomous takeoff, landing and GPS-independent navigation and collision avoidance for GA aircraft and aerial mobility aircraft as well.
Luuk van Dijk, founder and CEO of Daedalean, stated that “Developing flight control software requires lots of flight data. That’s why the collaboration with prominent industry partners such as Honeywell is critical for us to speed up the development of our technology. We are preparing for the joint flights testing our solutions for various types of aircraft, and excited to carry out trials on the planes we haven’t tried before.”
This partnership aims to effectively solve the flight controls hurdles that must be overcome in order for the aerial mobility industry to become successful on larger commercial scales than the current charter helicopter industries.
It’s reported that Honeywell’s hardware package is roughly the size of a paperback book.
Daedalean is a Swiss company that has expertise in robotics, computer vision and machine learning. Daedalean intends on using those innovations to advance the flight control methodology and systems architecture for both general aviation and electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. The key development and IP of this partnership is a flight control systems’ ability to process visual images, similar to human-like situational awareness, which could theoretically simplify pilot operations greatly and allow pilots to focus on the most mission critical decision and Aeronautical Decision making tasks that are required of professional pilots.
Why it’s important: This collaboration leverages the considerable resources of Honeywell and the technical expertise of a niché company like Daedalean. The approach of hybridizing current crewed operations for flight with the ultimate goal of fully autonomous operations will become increasingly popular in the coming years as the aerospace industry finds a medium between a massive operation leap and smaller steps towards an ultimate goal of redefining the typical methods for manned flight operations.
Source // Inside Unmanned Systems
The Aerospace controls design and manufacturer found a good deal in SureFly TransportUP reported in December that Workhorse’s SureFly Octocopter was planned to be purchased by Moog, Inc, a Torrance, CA based aerospace controls manufacturer. Following the sale and Workhorse’s filing of a 8-K/A report with the SEC that disclosed the price paid by Moog for SureFly, the story has...
The Aerospace controls design and manufacturer found a good deal in SureFly
TransportUP reported in December that Workhorse’s SureFly Octocopter was planned to be purchased by Moog, Inc, a Torrance, CA based aerospace controls manufacturer.
Following the sale and Workhorse’s filing of a 8-K/A report with the SEC that disclosed the price paid by Moog for SureFly, the story has changed somewhat. Approximately $4 million was paid for the sale of SureFly, seemingly a good deal for Moog, Inc. Original estimates for the sale were pegged to $30-million plus, but other compensation or agreements that might not be public information may have aided Moog in closing their deal at such an attractive price.
The other portion of the deal is HorseFly – a last-mile delivery UAS that Workhorse has split 50/50 with Moog. HorseFly’s IP may be valuable enough to Moog (considering the outward facing publicity of said hardware focused on the hardware itself, not the drone) that the smaller sum paid for SureFly was more palatable a transaction for Workhorse after all.
In many instances, the intellectual property and systems integration of last-mile delivery services are commonly cited as the value-add tech in these scenarios – the physical drone could easily be replaced for less than $1,000 with an off-the-shelf model (albeit some modifications required).
Why it’s important: Investors initially reacted very energetically to the deal between Workhorse and Moog – the $30MM valuation of Workhorse’ SureFly technology was large enough to turn many heads, especially in an industry such as aerial mobility, where funding is not as readily attainable as other industries with lower capital requirements and start up costs.
The Chinese Aerial Mobility and Drone Company flatlined during their IPO on the NASDAQ last week. EHang’s projected valuation of up to $800 million USD was in fact a projection – the company closed the trading week on the NASDAQ at a valuation just over $662 million USD, after a net change of 0.08% during the trading day resulting in...
The Chinese Aerial Mobility and Drone Company flatlined during their IPO on the NASDAQ last week.
EHang’s projected valuation of up to $800 million USD was in fact a projection – the company closed the trading week on the NASDAQ at a valuation just over $662 million USD, after a net change of 0.08% during the trading day resulting in a price of $12.49 per share.
According to an EHang press release, the company will use the funds to conduct additional technological research and development, expand its global sales channel and production capacity, develop urban air traffic solutions, and for investments and acquisitions.
EHang issued 3.2 million American depositary shares at US$12.5 per share in the IPO and granted underwriters “greenshoe” over-allotment rights to subscribe for up to 480,000 ADSs within 30 days after the issue. The total amount raised was half of the US$100 million EHang disclosed as being its target in its first prospectus issued at the end of October. Greenshoe over-allotment rights allow for underwriters to sell more shares than originally issue if there is greater buying demand than expected.
The original press release for EHang may be read here. Trading of the ADS’s began in mid-to late December and closed December 16th. Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, acted as the sole bookrunner for the offering, and Needham & Company, LLC, Tiger Brokers (NZ) Limited and Prime Number Capital, LLC acted as co-managers for the offering.
Why it’s important: The reception to EHang’s IPO can’t be drawn as a direct corollary to the public or investor sentiment of the aerial mobility industry, but it can serve as a general barometer for attitude towards exposure to risk and investment in new technologies. Since a very large portion of the company’s revenues come from the manufacturing and selling of consumer drones, EHang is able to take a measured approach toward involvement in aerial mobility, both in technological breadth and financial leverage.
NARI’s workshop aims to address potential aerial mobility growing pains before they occur The NASA Aeronautics Research Institute (NARI) is planning to host a Sustainable Aerospace Supply Chain & Manufacturing Workshop on February 4th and 5th, 2020, at the AMES Conference center at Moffett Field, California. The workshop has three desired outcomes, as listed on NASA’s overview of the event that...
NARI’s workshop aims to address potential aerial mobility growing pains before they occur
The NASA Aeronautics Research Institute (NARI) is planning to host a Sustainable Aerospace Supply Chain & Manufacturing Workshop on February 4th and 5th, 2020, at the AMES Conference center at Moffett Field, California.
The workshop has three desired outcomes, as listed on NASA’s overview of the event that can be read here:
- Clear identification of national aerospace supply chain and manufacturing current bottlenecks and what is required to meet future needs for large, medium, and smaller size aircraft including drones and eVTOL
- Clear identification of capabilities and supply chain and manufacturing assets that can be redeployed or transitioned to identified needs (e.g., from auto industry)
- Clear action plan to develop and enrich the national talents and skills to meet future aerospace supply chain and manufacturing needs
Addressing the concerns of future scaling for supply chain and manufacturing processes is crucial to the long term performance of any manufacturing-centric industry. For Aerial Mobility, there is no difference – and facilitating these discussions now that will clearly lay out a plan for future expansion is a key component of consideration in the larger eVTOL ecosystem.
An additional focus of the conference that should be reassuring to the mobility-inclined public is the inclusion of discussions that’ll focus on the development of future talent to support the growing needs of the aerospace industry in years to come, both from private and public sector resource demand perspectives.
Attendees should represent US-based original equipment manufacturers from aerospace, avionics, electrical, sensing, autonomous flight path control, or other supporting technology companies.
Why it’s important: NARI’s Workshop is another instantiation of working groups that are conducting the necessary pre-planning and due diligence to ensure that no forecastable portion of the manufacturing process for the emergent industry of Aerial Mobility is overlooked. Registration is still open for the workshop, and questions may be directed to organizers via the response form on the information page linked above.
Wingcopter builds drones for humanitarian, parcel delivery, and logistics applications German drone start-up Wingcopter announced last Friday that they’ve secured seven-digit financing. The investment as gained from Singapore-based Corecam Capital Partners. Wingcopter develops and produces autonomously flying delivery drones for social and civilian applications that align with the companies’ overall principle: “Technology with a Purpose”. Wingcopter features a patented tilt-rotor...
Wingcopter builds drones for humanitarian, parcel delivery, and logistics applications
German drone start-up Wingcopter announced last Friday that they’ve secured seven-digit financing. The investment as gained from Singapore-based Corecam Capital Partners. Wingcopter develops and produces autonomously flying delivery drones for social and civilian applications that align with the companies’ overall principle: “Technology with a Purpose”. Wingcopter features a patented tilt-rotor mechanism that intends to blend the advantages of commercial drones, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, to increase overall efficiency.
Wingcopter is led by founders Tom Plümmer (CEO), Jonathan Hesselbarth (CTO) and Ansgar Kadura (COO), who intend to bring grow their 35 person team, speed up the development of the next Wingcopter generation, and expand the global maintenance and sales network available for their technologies. Wingcopter currently serves various clients in 10 countries.
Martin Lechner, Managing Partner of Corecam Capital Partners, commented on the investment:
The investment in Wingcopter is the ideal addition to our existing portfolio in the fast-growing drone technology market. Their unique tilt-rotor mechanism as well as the strong global patent protection and the interest of blue-chip customers were decisive for us”
Wingcopter cites the fusion of multiple drone types, in that Wingcopter drones can take off and land vertically in the smallest of spaces while tiltrotors enable accelerated forward flight. This smooth transition enables ranges of up to 75 miles/120 kilometers in one flight and a Guinness world record speed of 150 miles/240 kilometers per hour. Even in strong winds of up to 55 mph/90 km/h or bad weather condition, Wingcopter was able to complete test flights with acceptable results. The long-range drone is targeted for use in life-saving deliveries of medical products such as medicines, vaccines, blood or lab samples as well as for the delivery of parcels or food.
Wingcopter CEO Tom Plümmer commented on the financing round:
We are pleased to have won Corecam as a renowned investor with extensive experience in the drones sector. The financing will help to significantly speed up our growth, meet the already high domestic and international demand and focus on the most promising markets with regards to global expansion. Our vision is to sustainably improve the lives of people around the world with our technology.
Wingcopter has carried out various projects in which medical supplies were delivered over long distances to remote regions, including a six-month pilot project with DHL and the German development agency giz in Tanzania and a project on the South Sea island of Vanuatu, where Wingcopter, on behalf of the local Ministry of Health and supported by UNICEF, successfully tested the supply of vaccines for children over several months. In both tests, the Wingcopter reduced the patients’ waiting time from several hours or days to a few minutes.
In Ireland, Wingcopter partnered with Vodafone and local customer SIS to deliver insulin beyond visual line of sight for the first time in Europe and over a distance of 14 miles/21 kilometers during harsh wind conditions. Further successful projects have been carried out in Japan, England, Malawi, Ethiopia, Norway, Canada and the Arctic, where the drone’s performance has been demonstrated under extreme conditions (- 44 °F/- 42 °C).
Wingcopter is currently planning to test a new delivery application in the USA together with a tier-one partner, and is in talks with select investors for their next round of financing.
Why it’s important: Wingcopter’s announcement of a significant fundraising round is grounds for highlighting the companies’ recent successes in creating a feasible multi/tilt-rotor configured eVTOL drone. While the current physical scale of Wingcopter’s drones do not support transportation of heavier payloads (commercial passenger operations) further maturation of the technology could ultimately result in products that allow for transport of greater quantities and volumes of goods, with eventual application to passenger transport. Furthermore, the demonstration of value of Wingcopter’s technology to those in remote communities that greatly benefit from the services provided by these drones is crucial to reinforcement of the societal benefits that eVTOL technology brings to disruptive transportation.
The urban air mobility infrastructure provider announced the Series A funding round last week Skyports, an urban air mobility infrastructure provider and drone delivery operator, announced on December 5th that they’ve raised £5.35 million in Series A funding. The funding round was jointly led by Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures (DBDV) and Groupe ADP. Levitate Capital also participated in this funding round following their seed...
The urban air mobility infrastructure provider announced the Series A funding round last week
Skyports, an urban air mobility infrastructure provider and drone delivery operator, announced on December 5th that they’ve raised £5.35 million in Series A funding. The funding round was jointly led by Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures (DBDV) and Groupe ADP. Levitate Capital also participated in this funding round following their seed investment in the company in January 2018.
Skyports’ mission is to “connect the world through our skies by building and operating critical infrastructure for urban air mobility and managing end to end drone deliveries” and is based in London, with projects in Asia, Africa, North America, and Europe.
This capital allows Skyports to continue its mission plan: acquire sites for passenger and cargo vertiports in cities around the world, including Singapore and Los Angeles, and develop said sites. Following the Singapore showcase of the world’s first passenger vertiport in October – the VoloPort – in partnership with air taxi manufacturer Volocopter, Skyports has received substantial interest from landlords in the city state and other cities around the world.
Duncan Walker, Chief Executive Officer of Skyports, commented on the recent close of the Series A round:
“We are delighted to welcome strategic investors with a long-term vision for the company. Our investors bring expertise in mobility, infrastructure and airport operations. Their significant balance sheets and strong leadership in their respective markets allow Skyports to consolidate its leading position in the industry in these early stages and through to permanent commercial operations in multiple markets.”
“Vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles are a new expression of airport activity – infrastructure, vehicle handling and passenger experience – and we are setting ourselves up to play a leading role in the development of Urban Air Mobility in the Paris Region and internationally through our 25 airports worldwide,” said Edward Arkwright, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Groupe ADP. “This strategic partnership will allow us to develop a deeper understanding of the emerging VTOL market and will provide strong synergies through Skyports’ expertise in urban areas.”
The urban aviation market is anticipated to be worth $1.5 trillion by 2040, $850 billion of which due to passenger vehicles and $400 billion by the transportation of goods by drone, according to a Morgan Stanley study. Significant investment has gone into the vehicles and research and development enabling technology whilst urban air mobility (UAM) infrastructure is under-invested. Without the take-off and landing infrastructure in place, the nascent UAM industry will fail to realize its market and socio-economic potential.
DBDV and Groupe ADP will take seats on the Skyports Board. Skyports has the option for a second close in the Series A round in the near future.
Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures
Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures (DBDV) is the corporate venture capital unit of Europe’s largest passenger and cargo railway operator, Deutsche Bahn. DBDV invests in new data-based business models in the fields of smart mobility, smart logistics and smart cities which utilize Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or the Internet of Things (IoT). The start-ups are not only gaining venture capital, but also get access to experts, DBs data, customers and markets.
Groupe ADP develops and manages airports, including Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly and Paris-Le Bourget. In 2018, the group handled through its brand Paris Aéroport more than 105 million passengers and 2.3 million metric tonnes of freight and mail at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly, and more than 176 million passengers in airports abroad through its subsidiary ADP International. Boasting an exceptional geographic location and a major catchment area, the Group is pursuing its strategy of adapting and modernizing its terminal facilities and upgrading quality of services; the group also intends to develop its retail and real estate businesses. In 2018, group revenue stood at €4,478 million and net income at €610 million.
Levitate Capital is a venture firm focused on next-generation air mobility. They see the coming revolution in how people use and experience aviation for transportation, logistics, and other use cases as one of the profound transformations of modern society. Their investments cover a broad range of ventures, from enabling systems that will let these craft fly electrically, autonomously, quietly and safely to building and operating the new air vehicles as well as business models that will complement aerial mobility networks of the future.
Why it’s important: This additional financial commitment to Skyports will allow the company to further advance its developments of vertiports across the world, and also reinforces the latent demand for construction of the infrastructure to support sustained, scaled commercial air taxi operations in the 5-10 year time frame. The unveiling of the Voloport in Singapore generated a significant buzz amongst industry members and the general public alike, as it was one of the first instantiations of a physical vertiport that allows individuals to understand what a potential customer experience of an air taxi flight would look and feel like. Expect Skyports to ascertain whether future additional funding is prudent, or whether the company devotes all focus to development of further refinements to their vertiport technology.
South Korea-based global automaker further commits to investments in mobility Hyundai has announced further involvement in the aerial mobility industry, not long after the company announced that it’s committing resources to bring an air taxi to market by 2023 – the same year that Uber Elevate aims to deploy limited commercial eVTOL operations to customers. The total investment of almost $52...
South Korea-based global automaker further commits to investments in mobility
Hyundai has announced further involvement in the aerial mobility industry, not long after the company announced that it’s committing resources to bring an air taxi to market by 2023 – the same year that Uber Elevate aims to deploy limited commercial eVTOL operations to customers.
The total investment of almost $52 billion USD is earmarked toward electric vehicles, flying cars, and disruptive mobility solutions. Hyundai also recently appointed Dr. Jaiwon Shin as EVP of its newly established Urban Air Mobility business division, a tangible commitment of human resources to pair with the substantial financial commitment that spans a much large scope than just aerial mobility.
The financial commitment is two-pronged: the first being traditional automotive advancements, leveraging electric motor technology, autonomous driving aids, and last-mile solutions to better current automotive tech to your every-day commute, while the second focuses on clean sheet aerial transportation systems that’ll connect riders between airports and urban centers, and inter-city hops with target ranges of less than 100 miles.
Hyundai already has invested large sums in electric vehicle tech, and similar to Airbus’ collaboration with ItalDesign and Audi, could be weighing the advantages of a ride/fly system, such as the Pop.Up Next, which combines the advantages of a tradition car or shuttle in urban environments with an adaptable “hovertrain” that adds on electric vertical lift motors that allow the “car” portion of the aircraft to convert to an eVTOL and transfer riders over longer, more congested routes. Such a design has not been confirmed by Hyundai, but certainly wouldn’t be ruled out of the realm of possibility due to the company’s experience and presence in the automotive industry.
One area that may challenge Hyundai is establishing aerospace-quality manufacturing standards – while the automaker has no challenge meeting high production rates of its affordable line of cars, standing up the complex composite and aerospace-spec manufacturing processes that add cost and complexity will be a hurdle that Hyundai will need to clear to win a portion of the eVTOL market share.
Why it’s important: Hyundai, and many other large automakers, are much more involved in the aerial mobility and innovative transportation industries than they’re given credit – most of these large companies have R&D sectors dedicated to advancement of tech that’ll both increase the efficiency of current solutions to mobility and define the future architecture for transport in the 10-20 year rollout time frame. Similar to recent aerospace acquisitions of mobility companies (such as the recently announced Boeing and Kitty Hawk Corporation merger, Wisk), expect additional announcements from other large automakers in the coming months and years that signal increased involvement in the aerial mobility industry.
Kitty Hawk recently rebranded as Wisk.Aero in a move many news outlets are stating is resultant of turmoil within the company. Regardless, the firms’ planned rollout of aerial mobility solutions in New Zealand is touted on the new wisk.aero website – along with the advantages of New Zealand as a location for piloting urban mobility solutions. Wisk touts the more...
Kitty Hawk recently rebranded as Wisk.Aero in a move many news outlets are stating is resultant of turmoil within the company. Regardless, the firms’ planned rollout of aerial mobility solutions in New Zealand is touted on the new wisk.aero website – along with the advantages of New Zealand as a location for piloting urban mobility solutions.
Wisk touts the more than 1,000 flights that Cora has completed to date, and is the result of the recent partnership announced between Boeing HorizonX (the venture arm of Boeing) and Kitty Hawk Corporation. Wisk’s CEO, Gary Gysin, is among board members that also include Steve Nordlund, Vice President and General Manager of Boeing NeXT, along with Logan Jones, VP of Boeing HorizonX. The mission of Wisk, according to the website, is unchanged from that of Kitty Hawk – less the rebrand.
Additionally, the organization features New Zealand local representatives as well – Anna Kominik serves as the New Zealand country director for the company, helping to advance local policy and establish New Zealand as a global contender among future mobility projects.
However, no timelines are presented for when Cora may operate on its first commercially-serviced route in New Zealand, as the company has publicly announced that no flights with paying customers would occur “until the time is right”. The company says that New Zealand has a “safety-focused regulatory environment” and “a strong history of excellence in airspace management”.
Boeing’s partnership with KittyHawk Corporation may also play well with recent advances made by the company related to the SkyGrid systems – a partnership between Boeing and sparkcognition, the world’s leader in AI. SkyGrid is establishing UTM solutions (low altitude airspace management) that’ll allow for drones and eVTOLs to interact with one another autonomously and deconflict an increased quantity of air traffic. That same UTM technology, when integrated with Wisk’s operating plan in New Zealand, would serve as the basis for a small, commercial eVTOL operation.
Why it’s important: The formal rebranding of Kitty Hawk as Wisk comes almost six months after the June announcement of a partnership between Boeing and the eVTOL maker. Since that announcement, numerous challenges have faced both companies, but the quantity and quality of resource pools and financial support from each will most likely contribute to persistent progress toward officially developing and deploying the systems that are being tested today.
When Day VMC isn’t possible, how will future aerial mobility solutions cope? Aircraft flying across the world encounter varying atmospheric conditions every day: from rain, winds, fog, freezing temperatures to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, aerospace innovation has excelled in addressing the technical challenges of operating aircraft in some of the harshest environments on earth. But, not all that...
When Day VMC isn’t possible, how will future aerial mobility solutions cope?
Aircraft flying across the world encounter varying atmospheric conditions every day: from rain, winds, fog, freezing temperatures to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, aerospace innovation has excelled in addressing the technical challenges of operating aircraft in some of the harshest environments on earth. But, not all that flies is immune to the challenges of our ever-changing atmosphere.
Take helicopters, for instance. While a portion of helicopters are equipped for IMC (in meteorological conditions) or IFR flight, the vast majority of helicopter operations are conducted in day or night VMC (visual meteorological conditions), while all Part 121 operated commercial aircraft fly IFR exclusively. Aside from the regulatory requirements that mandate large turbojet commercial air carriers operate using an elevated standard of navigational precision, the little to no requirements of the sort exist for helicopter operations conducted for hire, and in many cases those helicopter operations cease when weather dips below VFR or Marginal VFR minimums – a discrepancy that may be attributed to many helicopter operations occurring in chartered (Part 135) scenarios.
So what of the future of vertical, commercial aircraft operations – how will weather and operational regulations define the requirements of the future? A number of analogous cases may be drawn between eVTOL and helicopter operation vs. the commercial airline industry.
Air Traffic Management
Commercial air travel occurs almost exclusively under Part 121 regulations due to the volume and safety requirements of thousands of aircraft operating in the same airspace each day in the US alone. If the entire slate of commercial aircraft were to operate under visual flight rules, flight during many seasons that bring inclement weather simply wouldn’t be possible. Looking forward, though, the advancements in Air Traffic Management that are being piloted by companies such as AirMap (low-altitude airspace management), Skydio (proprietary see and avoid technology in consumer drones) and others such as Boeing’s SkyGrid and Airbus’ UTM offer integration packages that can vastly increase the quantity of air traffic in a given sector while maintaining high latency and location reporting precision.
These features, when implemented at scale, orchestrate pre-defined low-altitude air traffic routes, much like the Victor airways in the US and other airways globally that allow for stratification and organization of air traffic.Once navigation pathways are defined, managing operations on these pre-set routes is much easier, even when weather and environmental factors are at play, as a thunderstorm cell or icing pocket will be approached via a similar ground path for all traffic heading in one direction or the other: a controller (or in the future, airspace management dashboard) need simply re-define the airway that traffic is operating on to avoid the discrepant weather or atmospheric condition – resulting in a new pre-defined path that avoids conflict. In addition, this redefinition of an airway allows for controller workload alleviation, as the current solution requires a discrete, individual reroute from a human air traffic controller for each commercial flight in operation. This approach combines the advantages of preferred commercial aircraft routings with the flexibility of helicopter operations (where routes may change on a moments’ notice due to incoming weather).
Icing and Environmental Factors
Icing, hail, fog, and heavy rains all present some of the largest environmental challenges for helicopter (and eVTOL) aircraft as they restrict visibility and prevent many helicopters that are only rated for visual flight rules from making point-to-point flights. The presence of rain or fog isn’t the showstopper for eVTOLs that it is for helicopters: the precision of most GPS guided routes that have been demonstrated by prototype eVTOLs and drones today is on the order of meters (and in some case as good as 1m).
Unfortunately, icing is a challenge that hardly any eVTOL manufacturers have publicly addressed; whether it be for complexity or a reasoned approach of slowly adding complexity – the energy requirements of heating various lifting and propulsive surfaces are destined to increase the total energy requirements of eVTOL systems and thereby place even greater demand on battery energy density requirements, a topic already at the forefront of the aerial mobility industry today. Back to navigating in inclement weather, though:
The improvements in consumer drone technology by companies such as Skydio, which have created the world’s first drone that autonomously follows the user, are the same advancements in guidance and positioning that will allow for the incredibly high precision flight path guidance of eVTOLs of the future. Just as navigational aids such as NDB’s and use of the ADF were outdated by Instrument Landing systems (which are now being replaced en masse by RNAV, GPS, and RNP approaches) the next generation of flight path guidance may have roots firmly planted in the advance algorithms that companies like DJI and Skydio have toiled for long hours to perfect. Certification of said guidance systems will rely heavily on the ability to apply operational data from ongoing (drone) flights to demonstrate performance; but that discussion is not the focus of this analysis.
The idea of landing a large, commercial aircraft in a snowstorm or during a foggy morning in an ocean-side location was once intense enough to prevent many flights. Today, that perception has been replaced with the maturity of navigational technology – to the point where most passengers hardly notice the difference (or increased level of effort) of landing an aircraft in that snowstorm in Colorado compared to a visual approach on a sunny day in Southern California.
Similarly, the flying public of 2040 will be a majority demographic of technology-savvy passengers and riders, so the idea of hopping aboard an eVTOL in San Francisco during a winter fog stint would hardly raise an eyebrow, while the same flight today would undoubtedly be matched with significant consternation.
Why it’s important: Fixed wing aircraft and helicopters were initially only suited to flying in Day VMC conditions. Through technological advances, fixed wing (and then rotorcraft) were able to fly in IMC conditions, and at night. Navigational aids have increased in precision and enabled greater access to airports in degraded environmental and atmospheric conditions. When the advances of the past 20 years are projected to the next 20, the idea of GPS-guided eVTOL flight paths with ground track accuracy of ~1m and automated flight path rerouting using similar algorithms to those in existence today is not too far-fetched. And finally, the general sentiment of those flying on the aircraft that’ll be operated in these conditions will be that of wonder of flight and confidence in the technology that they’ve grown up with.
How the UAM Working Group Aims to Help Advance Composite Manufacturing Tech Aerospace grade composites have long been regarded as the golden standard for quality and durability. How can single batch production ramp to support the demands of a new industry? Composite manufacturing is common place among aerospace, automotive racing, and other high performance transportation modes – but it’s not...
How the UAM Working Group Aims to Help Advance Composite Manufacturing Tech
Aerospace grade composites have long been regarded as the golden standard for quality and durability. How can single batch production ramp to support the demands of a new industry?
Composite manufacturing is common place among aerospace, automotive racing, and other high performance transportation modes – but it’s not currently staged to support the growing demands of transformative modes of transportation that will require assembly-line scale mass produced material to bolster production levels to 100’s and 1,000’s of units per month from less than 10.
The American Composites Manufacturers Association, in partnership with aerial mobility startup Happy Take Off, are focusing directly on enabling the business relationships that will facilitate creative solutions to this problem. In partnership with over 20 companies from the aerospace and automotive manufacturing industries, ACMA and HTO hosted an Urban Air Mobility Meeting on September 25th in Anaheim, CA to form the UAM Working Group and kickoff discussions on advanced manufacturing processes for aerospace and automotive grade materials, composite material sciences developments, and how technology, aerospace, and automotive companies alike can leverage one another’s strengths to create solutions to the challenges of mass produced composites faster than any one company may be able to.
The partnerships aren’t without risk – it’ll be a challenging decision for some companies to offer up their IP in hopes of a greater return through collaboration. However, the UAM Working Group aims to facilitate those discussions at a high level, and then allow members of the group to talk specifics amongst themselves. Founder of Happy Take Off, Danielle McLean describes the aim of the group: “Our aim is to facilitate the high level, initial connection between players in the aerospace and automotive composites industries, and then allow them to dive further into the details of those partnerships privately.” ACMA’s Vice President of Composites Market Development, Dan Coughlin added that the working group is also encouraging the development of P3’s (public private partnerships) with Federal agencies including the Department of Defense, NASA and Department of Energy toward the betterment of composites manufacturing.
“Through our outreach, market development, and advocacy capabilities, ACMA connects industry with Federal agencies and policy makers in Washington, DC. The manufacturing needs of the UAM industry are challenging. ACMA will provide essential support for the UAM industry’s ambitious growth plans through our partnership, advocacy, and networking opportunities.
NASA’s Aeronautics Research Institute is also involved – Parimal Kopardekar (PK), Ph.D., and director of NARI plans to serve as a charter member of the UAM Working Group. In total, the UAM Working Group has combined players from UAM, tech, aerospace, automotive, governmental policy, private policy, and trade organizations in very short order, and is poised well to make an impact on the future of composites manufacturing for the aerial mobility industry.
About Happy Take Off and ACMA
Happy Take Off is focused on creation of modular vertiports than can be used on most existing buildings. HTO’s goal is to grow the number of applicable landing sites for UAM operations while minimizing the infrastructure and financial barriers to entry for vertiports. These modular vertiports will be completely self-contained, include live weather data for better route planning, and allow developers who aren’t as familiar with the industry to gain exposure and demo being a part of commercial UAM operations much easier than before.
The American Composites Manufacturing Association (ACMA) the world’s largest composites industry trade group. By delivering invaluable education and events, access to market intelligence, and by working with regulators and legislators, ACMA serves as the center of expertise and competence and an essential driver of industry growth and prosperity. ACMA represents small and large companies—manufacturers, suppliers and distributors, and affiliates—from every market segment in all 50 states as well as international members.
Why it’s important: Companies like Icon Aircraft have been wildly popular for creating easy to fly, clean sheet general aviation aircraft that generate marketing buzz commensurate of a newly released supercar – but the technologies to enable mass production of the same or similar materials that are already in use for general aviation aerospace applications are years away from reality. The partnership between ACMA and Happy Take Off, in addition to the 50+ companies participating in the Urban Air Mobility meeting in Anaheim, CA, suggests that these discussions are already advancing progress less than a month after the formal program was announced.
Below is a full list of companies currently committed to the UAM Working Group:
Airspace Experience Technologies
Boat Works of South Windsor, Inc.
Diab Americas LP
NEXA Capital Partners, LLC
Oak Ridge National Lab
Superior Huntingdon Composites, LLC
TxV Aero Composites
BLADE Urban Air Mobility has expanded its offerings on the West Coast, now availing customers with direct, on demand flights connecting LAX, DTLA, Burbank, the Westside, Orange County, and more in Southern California. Months after the UAM provider brought their San Francisco Bay services into the public realm, they’ve continued to expand their West Coast market to include Southern California....
BLADE Urban Air Mobility has expanded its offerings on the West Coast, now availing customers with direct, on demand flights connecting LAX, DTLA, Burbank, the Westside, Orange County, and more in Southern California.
Months after the UAM provider brought their San Francisco Bay services into the public realm, they’ve continued to expand their West Coast market to include Southern California.
In an interview with BLADE’s General Manager of West Coast Operations, Shivani Parikh, and BLADE UAM Founder and CEO, Rob Wiesenthal, the new operations were described as an exciting new market for on-demand aerial mobility for the West Coast.
“Since expanding our continuous flight service in Manhattan and San Francisco, we are seeing faster-than-expected adoption by people choosing to fly rather than drive” Parikh stated. “Additionally, Los Angeles is on the forefront of embracing multi-modality transportation options such as auto, bike, and scooter shares as new ways of saving time. BLADE is now enabling another mobility option – the ability to fly short distances bypassing ground traffic on the way to work, home, the airport or to key leisure destinations. Los Angeles’ great weather contributes to an endless flying season for customers to take advantage of beating traffic in one of the most congested cities in the United States.
TransportUP’s Editor, Naish Gaubatz, went for a ride with the BLADE team in Los Angeles to demo the expansion of BLADE’s UAM offerings. The short helicopter ride highlighted the benefits of a dedicated urban air mobility operation in a congested city like Los Angeles – not only were the direct to heliport services at LAX a means to save time, the flight to the West Side showcased the ease of travelling along a route that would normally take almost an hour when the Northbound 405 Freeway is gridlocked (while the flight took less than 10 minutes and included spectacular views to boot).
Additionally, BLADE’s new expansion of services in Southern California play well with the culture of entertainment and luxury excursion that is signature of Los Angeles – and which many travel far to experience. In partnership with a variety of music, cultural, sporting, and large event programmers, BLADE has been able to capture a large amount of on-demand aerial mobility customers who are seeking better and faster ways to reach these marquis events. Not to mention, many of these experiences are accompanied with time at one of BLADE’s signature customer experience facets – the BLADE Lounge. Currently stationed in DTLA, the BLADE Lounge offers customers the chance to unwind with a drink before their flight, or complete some last minute work items. BLADE has stated that prices of flights between LAX, DTLA, the West Side, and Burbank will start at $195.
Many argue that BLADE is piloting UAM operations of tomorrow with a platform that’s functional today by utilizing the most technologically advanced, safest certified rotorcraft on the market. When asked about the transition between helicopters and eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft) as the main aircraft that serve currently heli-dominated routes, CEO Rob Wiesenthal stated “We don’t see the transition as a step function change; there will be opportunities for customers on a limited basis to try eVTOL aircraft when they’re available, certified, and have a track record of performance – but even then the integration into BLADE’s accessible fleet will be measured”
Shivani Parikh also commented on potential future expansion plans for BLADE in SoCal to include Santa Barbara, San Diego, and desert cities on an “as demanded basis”. The general approach, commented Parikh, was utilize early adopting customer feedback campaigns that help to identify the areas for the largest benefit and refinement of BLADE’s current offerings.
Why it’s important: BLADE UAM has few competitors in Southern California – in fact, the closest entity to a competitor currently are helicopter charter services that require booking and coordination days, if not weeks in advance. With BLADE’s UAM platform, customers can book and be airborne in minutes, directly on the way to their destination. In cities like New York and Los Angeles alike, the last few miles of the journey can make all the difference in time savings, and BLADE’s expansion in SoCal could likely be the beginning of many more commercial UAM operations in Los Angeles.
Will Boeing and Porsche Bring these Products to Market? This article appeared first in Forbes and is shared on TransportUP with permission. Last week, Boeing and Porsche signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly explore the premium urban air mobility market. The word “explore” suggests they think premium UAM remains some ways off. Given that Porsche doesn’t exactly target fleet...
Will Boeing and Porsche Bring these Products to Market?
This article appeared first in Forbes and is shared on TransportUP with permission.
Last week, Boeing and Porsche signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly explore the premium urban air mobility market. The word “explore” suggests they think premium UAM remains some ways off. Given that Porsche doesn’t exactly target fleet buyers, some have speculated this partnership will produce a “flying sports car.”
So are Porsche and Boeing going to build personal vehicles for the high net worth crowd? Porsche might have an interest in building such a car to promote their brand. It could look like targeting a segment of the supercar market without the potential for cannibalizing existing sales. However, if the alliance follows the economic interests of both parties, this alliance will focus on creating fleet aircraft with a healthy dose of performance and luxury cues for the wealthy.
There will be a flying sports car market for individuals who wish to fly (and drive) the vehicle themselves. Terrafugia, AeroMobil, and PAL-V have vehicles in process targeting this market. These flying cars have list prices starting at $200,000 and can cost more than $1,200,000. Flying sports cars could change travel patterns to vacation homes or eventually even work in certain circumstances. They will probably represent an offshoot of the supercar market or the very top end of the car market.
I can’t wait to fly one, but the market in units will be relatively small for affordability reasons. Think thousands of units per year. The entire luxury car market in the U.S. will be about $10 billion in 2019, but nearly all of that market is for cars below $150,000. Jonathan Carrier, Vice President of Corporate Development for AeroMobil validates this point, “The total addressable market for flying cars above $500,000 is perhaps 10,000 units by 2030, but realistically the privately-owned market will total 1000 units per year. Supercar market dynamics will be key: exclusivity, performance and customer experience.”
Fleet models can drive the cost to enter the UAM market much lower than the alternatives and thereby stimulate the market. Instead of paying $200,000 plus upfront for a personal air vehicle, even if it isn’t a flying sports car, wealthy individuals could pay a reasonable cost per trip. Not surprisingly, Porsche Consulting suggests the overall eVtol market will total $32B market, by 2035.
However, even a fleet UAM model with high levels of utilization and seat occupancy won’t immediately support massive substitution for auto traffic. Today, driving a large sedan, the type of vehicle that a black car service might use, costs around about $0.72 per vehicle mile. At an average occupancy of 1.67 people (not including the driver), the cost per seat mile falls to $0.43/seat mile. (Of course, for a black car service the cost would be much higher to pay for the driver.) At Elevate this year, Uber predicted that at inception UAM cost per seat mile will exceed $5.70 per seat mile. At scale Uber projects a cost of $1.86 per seat mile for a UAM with all four seats occupied. These estimates assume the UAM programs hit their targets and don’t take into account that the same technical innovations that make the decline in seat miles costs for UAM possible will also drive down the cost per seat mile of automobiles.
The superior operating economics for fleets, the high purchase costs for personal UAM vehicles and the time and effort required to get a pilot’s license will ensure that UAM manufacturers sell many fleet vehicles for every personal vehicle they sell. As a result, fleet vehicles should become the priority in Boeing’s and Porsche’s joint capital investment plans.
Market Sizing and Who Will Fly in UAM Vehicles
The fleet market for UAM vehicles will grow off the base of UAM applications that helicopters fill today and then into the black car market. After years of dormancy, the commuter helicopter business has started to grow with Voom creating a moderate success in Sao Paolo and Mexico City and Blade building a nice business in New York. Uber recently joined the fray by starting services in New York and has announced service in the Bay Area. Helicopters currently cost around $1,200 per flight hour to operate, or between $9-10 per seat mile for a six-passenger aircraft. That is 70-80% more than Uber’s projections for its initial UAM service for a four-passenger aircraft (depending on whether you measure by cost per flight hour or cost per seat mile basis). Cutting that much cost could cause these markets to grow by three times or more. Most of these customers will come from more expensive car services. Uber Black, for example, typically costs over three times UberX and as UAM costs fall some black car customers will naturally choose to step up.
People often use helicopter services even though it costs more and doesn’t always save time. Recently, The Drive echoed the classic New York Times taxi helicopter race article from the 1970s using Uber’s new helicopter service to go to JFK. Their case study showed that public transport took less time than Uber’s service while acknowledging times might vary depending on the complexity of multi-model connections. In the Bloomberg version, the rider in the helicopter spent $364 for two people and took 43 minutes to arrive despite the eight-minute flight time. In the end, the attractiveness of the service from a functional standpoint will probably depend on the time of day, which drives traffic congestion, and the proximity of the origin or destination to the helipad. However, in addition to these specific time and geographic advantages, helicopter services have also grown because they are a premium product.
The Role of Performance Cues and Customer Experience
Today, helicopter service is a product for those with very high budgets. In the future, however, the people who will use these services might look a lot like people who buy one of Porsche’s more affordable sports cars. Wealthier individuals who value their time and businesspeople in a rush value premium experiences and status. Less hassle, lounges, and priority boarding remain valuable in commercial aviation even in the era of low-cost airlines, and these needs are often reflected in customer experience design for services like Blade. Not surprisingly, Porsche has worked with Delta Private Jets on the ground leg of private jet trips to create seamless, premium experiences.
Unlike the commercial aviation market where airlines (for example Eos and Max Jet) were not able to successfully customize entire aircraft to premium segments, vehicle design will likely play an important role for fleet UAM models. On the one hand, wealthy clients will continue to find exclusivity, performance cues, and luxury design attractive just as they do in the luxury car market. Exclusivity will be far more important in the UAM market than in the commercial aviation markets due to the small size of the aircraft and the more intimate nature of the experience. The risk associated with some of the well-publicized ride-sharing challenges JetSmarter faced in the private jet market, always an aspirational area for the well-to-do, will only intensify these concerns.
Similarly, while the well-off UAM customer might not have the money for a Porsche 911 GT3 RS or a flying sports car and they may not personally fly their UAM vehicle, they will not want to fly in the UAM equivalent of a Yugo. For proof points beyond cars, competition in the private jet market is again instructive. One could argue that flight speed makes little practical difference for most private flights (except perhaps by increasing fuel bills), but nonetheless, it remains an important differentiating feature for private jets. Interiors also play a key role in differentiating for private aviation and Porsche Design Studio has worked in this area previously to leverage its expertise from autos. On the other hand, fleet operators also care deeply about the cost of operation, so fleet UAM will use these cues while controlling operating costs.
Only Porsche has strong economic motives to pursue the personal market. Small market sizes shouldn’t create an impediment for them. It is a complement to what they already have and they have effectively pursued analogous strategies in the auto market. Boeing has less at stake in terms of brand connection to a high-end flying sports car and its BBJ business is of less relative importance financially. In the BBJ business, for example, the interior design is done by third parties like GDC Technics.
Both parties do have a significant interest in the fleet market. UAM will probably start from a base where it serves a relatively small core market of wealthy individuals and business people that prefer UAM service to expensive car transport options. That will represent a new, attractive market for both Porsche and Boeing. While initial market sizing estimates for UAM might seem aggressive without lower costs, over time the market will grow. Whoever wins the initial premium market will have a great market position in an attractive segment and a strong, aspirational brand it can take to the mass market. Porsche represents a great starting point either as an ingredient brand to the long-term UAM brand or as a UAM brand on its own. As noted above, the vehicle will need a luxury, performance-oriented design to go with the premium services. Porsche is the perfect partner to help Boeing get there on both of these dimensions and Boeing can provide the expertise to make it fly.
Hyundai Motor Group announced Monday that is has appointed Dr. Jaiwon Shin as Executive Vice President if its newly established Urban Air Mobility Division. Hyundai stated in a press release that Dr. Shin, an internationally renowned aeronautics engineer, will lead the company into a new era of developing smart mobility products within the aviation industry. “Having worked on cutting-edge aviation...
Hyundai Motor Group announced Monday that is has appointed Dr. Jaiwon Shin as Executive Vice President if its newly established Urban Air Mobility Division. Hyundai stated in a press release that Dr. Shin, an internationally renowned aeronautics engineer, will lead the company into a new era of developing smart mobility products within the aviation industry.
“Having worked on cutting-edge aviation research and development at NASA for 30 years, I am very excited and humbled by the opportunity to now shape urban air mobility strategy at Hyundai Motor Group. The new team at Hyundai will develop core technologies that will establish the company as a driving force in urban air mobility, a sector that is expected to grow into a market worth USD 1.5 trillion within the next 20 years.” Dr. Shin stated of his new role
Hyundai Motor Group also characterized the importance of aerial mobility: “Urban Air Mobility is expected to become a critically important part of the integrated mobility solution for ever-increasing traffic problems in mega cities around the world. Through the Urban Air Mobility Division, Hyundai Motor Group aims to provide innovate and smart mobility solutions never seen or thought of before.”
Dr. Shin is a well-deserved appointee for this new role, and has held various positions within aerospace technology companies over his career. Most recently, he led the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA, where he shaped the agency’s aeronautics research and development strategy for over 11 years.During his time at NASA, Dr. Shin was head of a USD 725 million program to lead many new aeronautics research initiatives, such as supersonic X-plane, aircraft electrification, UAS traffic management, and recently, urban air mobility.
Dr. Shin has also been involved from the political front of advancing aerospace and disruptive transportation technology, as he co-chaired the White House National Science and Technology Council’s Aeronautics Science and Technology Subcommittee, which wrote the United States’ first presidential policy for aeronautics research and development. He was also co-chair of the USAF / NASA Executive Research Committee, which facilitated the highest level of coordination of common research needs between United States Air Force and NASA Aeronautics. He is internationally recognized as a leader in the aviation research community and was elected to the Chair of the International Forum for Aviation Research (IFAR) for a two-year term in 2014. Dr. Shin has also been awarded the Presidential Rank Award twice (in 2008 and 2016), the highest accolade presented to public officials in the US federal government.
Dr. Shin received his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia. His bachelor’s degree is in mechanical engineering from Yonsei University in Korea, and his master’s degree is in mechanical engineering from the California State University, Long Beach.
A graduate of the Senior Executive Fellowship Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Dr. Shin has authored and co-authored more than 20 technical and journal papers. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society of the United Kingdom.
Why it’s important: Hyundai’s appointment of Dr. Shin is a continuation of increasing involvement from large automotive firms in the aerial mobility industry, and is a signal of what’s to come for Hyundai’s transportation developments in the future. A new UAM division will undoubtedly garner additional competition and energy within the aerial mobility industry as Hyundai continues to make a name for themselves as much more than a land-based automotive and transportation technology OEM.
German Urban Air Mobility Company Volocopter raises new capital Volocopter announced Sunday that they’ve completed a EUR 50 Million first closing of their Series C finding round. Series C was led by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd, followed by new and existing investors from Europe, America, and Asia. Geely Holding and Volocopter also announced that they’ll enter a joint...
German Urban Air Mobility Company Volocopter raises new capital
Volocopter announced Sunday that they’ve completed a EUR 50 Million first closing of their Series C finding round. Series C was led by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., Ltd, followed by new and existing investors from Europe, America, and Asia. Geely Holding and Volocopter also announced that they’ll enter a joint venture to bring Urban Air Mobility to China. Geely holdings is no stranger to backing UAM initiatives – they acquired a large portion of Mass. based flying car manufacturer Terrafugia in November of 2017.
Founders jointly remain largest shareholder
Funds acquired in this round of funding will be used towards bringing the VoloCity aircraft to commercial launch within the next three years, an air taxi concept that was unveiled just weeks ago. Volocopter stated that they will remain in discussions with additional investors for a second closing around year-end. The first closing has increased Volocopter’s total fundraising to EUR 85 million.
Since its foundation in 2011, Volocopter has built three generations of Volocopter aircraft, two of which received licenses for manned and unmanned flight with a total funding of EUR 35 million. The company has performed numerous public demonstrations of the viability of electrically powered vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL), most recently it successfully completed a flight at Helsinki International Airport. This flight featured the company’s current demonstrator, the Volocopter V200X, and helped to support the compatibility of air taxis with existing air traffic management solutions while paving the way for airspace integrated flights of aircraft like VoloCity in the future.
“Urban mobility needs to evolve in the next few years to meet rising demand. With our Volocopter air taxis, we are adding a whole new level of mobility in the skies” says Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter.
Geely Holding becomes a minority investor in Volocopter, next to existing strategic investors like Daimler. The founders, Stephan Wolf and Alexander Zosel both individual shareholders, jointly remain the company’s largest shareholder.
Geely Holding highlights the strategic cooperation potential with Volocopter. The companies have agreed to enter into a joint venture to bring Urban Air Mobility to the significant Chinese market. Li Shufu, Geely Holding Chairman, said:
“Geely is transitioning from being an automotive manufacturer to a mobility technology group, investing in and developing a wide range of next-generation technologies. Our latest cooperation with Daimler, building on our partnership in smart and premium ride-hailing services, as well as our joint venture with Volocopter underlines our confidence in Volocopter air taxis as the next ambitious step in our wider expansion in both electrification and new mobility services.”
Volocopter stated that they anticipate another funding round to close by end of 2019, and plans on earmarking those funds toward European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) commercial certification of the VoloCity air taxi. Volocopter is opening this fundraising round to both existing and new investors and equity groups.
Volocopter also announced that later this year they’ll present the VoloPort air taxi landing infrastructure at the 26th Annual Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress in Singapore, held 22 – 25 October 2019.
Why it’s important: This additional capital injection for Volocopter will support further certification efforts for the company later this year and continuing into 2020, and reaffirms Geely Holding’s involvement in the UAM industry, as well as supports Geely’s transition from an automotive holdings group to a mobility enabler. The trend of automotive groups becoming increasingly involved in the UAM industry is not unique – although a number of these companies are deliberately keeping quiet. Volocopter’s 2023 entry into service (EIS) timeline for certification and initial commercial implementation of the VoloCity Air Taxi concept aligns with Uber Elevate’s initiatives and schedule for air taxi commercialization.
Source // Volocopter
Derrick Xiong, co-founder and CMO of EHang shares his vision on the future of eVTOL and UAM. TransportUP: Where does your passion for aerospace and aviation come from and why are you particularly interested in eVTOL? Derrick Xiong: EHang was founded back in 2014 by myself and the other founder, Huazhi Hu. I had a passion to pursue a career...
Derrick Xiong, co-founder and CMO of EHang shares his vision on the future of eVTOL and UAM.
TransportUP: Where does your passion for aerospace and aviation come from and why are you particularly interested in eVTOL?
Derrick Xiong: EHang was founded back in 2014 by myself and the other founder, Huazhi Hu. I had a passion to pursue a career as an entrepreneur while Mr. Hu had the aviation dream as a helicopter pilot. I think the reason we wanted to start at EHang was because we’ve seen a lot of crashes every year from all kinds of traditional aircraft, especially helicopters. Actually, two mentors of Mr. Hu mentors died in accidents in 2010 and 2012.
How do you vision urban air mobility and eVTOL disrupting the global aviation paradigm in the next 10 years?
I think in the next ten years, a lot is going to happen. For example, we just announced this news that we are working with the Guangzhou municipal government to promote urban air mobility. We’re also working with the Civil Aviaton Authority in China to meet their airworthiness standards. I think we’re going to see a lot of positive changes. I see urban air mobility and eVTOL adding an additional layer to traditional current air transportation. You know, I’m seeing all these changes and there’s definitely going to be a commercialization of urban air mobility and more people who will be able to benefit from the progress and development of the industry.
How long do you believe it will be before UAM is commercialized to the general public?
When we announced the news with the Guangzhou government, we’re not looking at the next 5 to 10 years, but the near future. So I can’t give a timeline per se or guarantee that it is going to happen this year, but it’s not far away.
Who is your ideal customer? Is EHang marketing its products towards private customers or towards air taxi services or both?
As a company, we are open to either, but also want to establish meaningful business partnerships. As of recent, we have done demo flight in Vienna, Amsterdam, Doha, and Dubai. In doing this, we want to position ourselves as a global company and work with local partners to get approvals from federal regulators. So I think we will need individual partners and business partners alike to be successful.
There are many different new entrants to the eVTOL and urban air mobility markets how do you plan to remain ahead of that competition in such a fragmented industry?
First of all, I see the competition as a good thing because if you think back to 2016 when we first launched the EHang 184, you didn’t see many companies doing this. There was nobody talking about urban air mobility. Everyone’s participation in eVTOL will help to make the industry grow, which is very exciting.
I’ll say from what I’ve seen of public sources, we seem to be making the most progress towards flight demos and flights with passengers. We’ve carried hundreds of passengers and that has helped to build confidence in the technology of our products. Between that, the relationship with the Guangzhou government, and other developments, I think we will keep going and continue to make our own contributions to the industry.
What are some of the challenges to your continued growth and the overall adoption of UAM and how are you working to get ahead of some of those complexities?
We’re getting to a point now where the aircraft are becoming very safe and reliable. At EHang, we’d like to do better seeking out new partners and opportunities to showcase our technology and demo sites. I think the social acceptance of the general public will be one of the biggest challenges before the mass usage of these vehicles. But in terms of the safety and technology of our vehicles, we’re very comfortable in light of the number of successful tests we’ve had.
My last question for you on that note, if I’m a member of the general public, why should I particularly be interested in UAM?
I think eVTOL is a fundamental need no matter where you live. If you live in big cities, traffic can make it take much longer to get from Point A to Point B. This is something the general public needs to keep their eye on, it’s going to change the way we commute. I think people might have questions about the safety or regulation of these vehicles, but the need for eVTOL is enormous for everyone.