While in the Elon Musk has past expressed opposition the idea of Urban Air Mobility, his recent actions may suggest a possible change of heart. In a 2017 Tweet, Musk brought up the possibility that the optional rocket tech package for the future Roadster will allow it to ‘fly short hops‘. According to Musk, “the SpaceX option package for new Tesla...
While in the Elon Musk has past expressed opposition the idea of Urban Air Mobility, his recent actions may suggest a possible change of heart.
In a 2017 Tweet, Musk brought up the possibility that the optional rocket tech package for the future Roadster will allow it to ‘fly short hops‘. According to Musk, “the SpaceX option package for new Tesla Roadster will include ~10 small rocket thrusters arranged seamlessly around (the) car…Rocket tech applied to a car opens up revolutionary possibilities.”
Most recently, his suggestions of a flying Tesla Roadster have been growing stronger. Just last week he tweeted the following:
The new Roadster will actually do something like this https://t.co/fIsTAYa4x8
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 9, 2019
With this post, he mentioned claimed that the Tesla “will use SpaceX cold gas thruster system with ultra high-pressure air in a composite over-wrapped pressure vessel in place of the 2 rear seats.”
At a TED Talk in 2017, Musk strongly opposed flying cars, with the premise that UAM vehicles are noisy, produce wind pollution, and will cause anxiety for people living beneath them. But in a recent note to clients this December, he mentioned, “Tesla has expertise in batteries, AI software, complete vehicle engineering, charging infrastructure and material science that we believe may have transferability to the autonomous aircraft domain”.
Although the jury is still out on which direction Musk will take with flying vehicles, he has continued to work on the ‘The Boring Company’, which plans to build large series of car-moving tunnels under urban areas to eliminate traffic. You can learn more about the Boring Company idea in Musk’s 2017 TED Talk, where he discusses the Boring Company in depth and explains he’s chosen the underground tunneling solution rather the skies. The Boring Company’s FAQ’s page also mentions the reasoning behind this choice.
The Boring Company and Uber Elevate plan to launch in Los Angeles within five years.Why it’s important:
While Musk has expressed opposition to the UAM solutions in the past, it’s possible that his interest in flying vehicles (as expressed by the potential flying capabilities of the upcoming Tesla Roadster) may lead him to make contributions to the autonomous air vehicle space with Tesla and SpaceX’s AI, battery, and vehicle engineering tech. Although Uber Elevate and Musk’s Boring Company are in competition for eliminating congestion, Musk may decide to contribute to a future that is both in the skies as well as under the earth.
The construction of Western Sydney Airport (WSA) began on September 24, 2018. The project in Badgerys Creek, Australia will be designed with 21st-century thinking in mind and will be completed by 2026. It shall have infrastructure to support various modes of transportation to get to and from the airport, with ride-sharing services as a primary option. Further, Western Sydney Airport will...
The construction of Western Sydney Airport (WSA) began on September 24, 2018. The project in Badgerys Creek, Australia will be designed with 21st-century thinking in mind and will be completed by 2026. It shall have infrastructure to support various modes of transportation to get to and from the airport, with ride-sharing services as a primary option.
Further, Western Sydney Airport will be constructed on a 1800-hectare plot of land, allowing for plenty of space for disruptive technologies, such as urban air mobility aircraft flights. WSA Chief Executive Officer Graham Millet is a strong advocate for the airport as a testbed for passenger and freight drones, as demonstrated by integrating this forethought into the planning of the new airport.
While the Australian city in which Uber Air’s aerial ride-sharing network will be stood up has not yet been determined, Western Sydney Airport has now made a case for Sydney as the host city. Uber has articulated that the ideal cities are those with high population density and heavy traffic, particularly to a big airport.
Similar to Singapore’s word-class Changi Airport, Millet aims for WSA to be a destination not just for travelers. It will host art exhibitions, gymnasiums, shops, and other attractions, all while keeping operational costs low and ground transport traffic as light as possible. Millet has also already reached out to Uber in hope to ignite discussions between the two regarding drone operations in Australia.
The Australian federal government is allocating approximately $5.3 billion to the Western Sydney Airport, and it is possible that a portion of the budget can be seen going toward sky ports. This is the first outspoken plan for an airport to plan a preemptive integration of drone air mobility operations and could subsequently jumpstart future worldwide efforts.
Why its important: Western Sydney Airport sets a precedent as the first airport to plan for infrastructure to support passenger and freight drones – such as Uber Elevate sky ports – in an attempt to alleviate ground transport and jumpstart air mobility operations in Australia.
A landing pad for the VRCO NeoXcraft is being built in the garden of a $12.5 million home in the UK. VRCO has released a set of images showing the planned landing area, which comes with a renewable energy recharging system for the two-seater aircraft. VRCO is based in Derby, UK, and has been developing the NEOXCraft since its founding in...
A landing pad for the VRCO NeoXcraft is being built in the garden of a $12.5 million home in the UK. VRCO has released a set of images showing the planned landing area, which comes with a renewable energy recharging system for the two-seater aircraft. VRCO is based in Derby, UK, and has been developing the NEOXCraft since its founding in 2015. The NeoXCraft is one of the top aircraft soon to enter the UK eVTOL market with a planned first flight in 2019 and an intended certification date of 2020.
VRCO has recently made large strides in their development process by partnering with property developer Guy Phoenix to develop a landing pad for a new home in the village of Edwalton. The landing pad is six meters in diameter, and will reach completion in April. Key to the landing pad is an integrated solar and wind system to recharge the vehicle, and an ‘etched data store code’ which will allow the aircraft to land autonomously.
The addition of the landing pad to this house represents the beginning of a major shift in how real estate will work with flying cars. By eVTOL, the home is only 30 minutes from London, while normally a 2.5 hour drive. Many experts in the industry have predicted that the existence of eVTOL services will eventually raise the appeal of living further away from major cities, as they will allow people to live in less populate areas and still commute to work in cities quickly.
Said VRCO CEO Dan Hayes, “The house itself has been built to a level rarely seen in construction in both design, finish and technology, so together the Guy Phoenix brand delivering luxury homes and the VRCO brand soon to deliver the future, I am sure will work well together.”
To learn more about the specifications and features of the VRCO NeoXCraft, have a look our NeoXCraft Vehicle Page.
Why its important: This home in Nottingham is one of the first in the world to build a private landing pad for an eVTOL. With VRCO’s expected certification date in 2020, the occupant of this home could be one of the first in the world to own and actively use a private eVTOL.
Morgan Stanley has conducted an in-depth analysis of the potential market for eVTOL air taxis, concluding that by 2040 the market may be worth over $1.5 trillion. The report by Morgan Stanley was a full 85 pages. It pulled its information from many of the companies working on UAM solutions include Boeing and Uber, as well as from NASA’s Urban...
Morgan Stanley has conducted an in-depth analysis of the potential market for eVTOL air taxis, concluding that by 2040 the market may be worth over $1.5 trillion.
The report by Morgan Stanley was a full 85 pages. It pulled its information from many of the companies working on UAM solutions include Boeing and Uber, as well as from NASA’s Urban Air Mobility Industry day last month.
The study included an evaluation of both drone courrier services and passenger eVTOL services, predicting that $851 billion of that $1.5 Trillion total market will be taken up by passenger vehicles.
“We see the market beginning as an ultra-niche add-on to existing transportation infrastructure, similar to how helicopters operate today,” the analysts said. “It eventually transforms into a cost-effective, time-efficient method of traveling short to medium distances, eventually taking share from car and airline companies.”–Morgan Stanley report on Urban Aviation
Morgan Stanley names the top challenges to developing Urban Aviation as providing for the rigorous safety standards required for autonomous aircraft, meeting energy density needs in batteries, and minimizing noise emissions.
It also names a “Flying Car 50” list of the top 50 companies it believes will lead the UAM transformation. These include new flying car developers, large aviation companies like Boeing & Aurora Flight Sciences, Tech companies like Garmin, and even insurance providers like Progressive. It also mentions companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and more. For a list of the top eVTOL vehicles and developers in the market, check out our Hangar page.
The study also included a $413 billion evaluation for freight transportation, with $12 billion coming from military and defense applications, as well as another $198 billion for enabling technologies and services, ranging from batteries to autonomous control software.
Why its important: Morgan Stanley is a long-time expert on market analysis, giving further validity and proof of an enormous upcoming UAM market. It’s prediction for the greatest obstacles for the UAM industry, including regulatory and safety hurdles, battery tech, and noise emission may well provide guidance for the industry, encouraging players to focus on overcoming these hurdles as quickly as possible.
The UK’s latest move for Urban Aviation is a £125 million ($160 million) commitment to aviation companies developing autonomous and electric aircraft. With this new government-Industry Aerospace Sector Deal, the UK government hopes to develop the”next generation of electric planes, drones and autonomous aircraft by 2025″. The UK Government’s latest press release states that a major part of what the UK...
The UK’s latest move for Urban Aviation is a £125 million ($160 million) commitment to aviation companies developing autonomous and electric aircraft.
With this new government-Industry Aerospace Sector Deal, the UK government hopes to develop the”next generation of electric planes, drones and autonomous aircraft by 2025″.
The UK Government’s latest press release states that a major part of what the UK is calling the “Future Flight Challenge” focuses on “exploiting the global potential of new urban mobility solutions and pioneer autonomous aviation.” With the Future Flight Challenge, the UK is also seeking to help fund companies investigating how autonomous and electric vertical aircraft can “transform the future of transportation in urban areas” in order to ease automotive traffic congestion.
The overall goal of the R&D funding is enable UK-based companies to create aircraft that are quieter, safer, and more efficient. With the initiative, the UK hopes to put itself at the forefront of the green aviation industry.
The UK government mentions that initially the Future Flight Challenge will focus on smaller aircraft such as drones and those used for urban air mobility, and will eventually scale to include larger passenger aircraft as well. Throughout history, the UK has been responsible for many aviation advancements including the creation of the Jet Engine, and mass production of Aircraft and Aircraft Engines (through Airbus and Rolls-Royce). With the new Sector Deal, the UK hopes to continue this trend.
Why it’s important: The UK’s latest commitment to developing autonomous, electric, and efficient aviation technologies both at the UAM scale and at the traditional aviation scale represents yet another country getting on board for a UAM future. With the development of ‘Future Air Mobility Grand Challenge’, the UK joins NASA, Japan, and many others in the race for bringing UAM technologies to market.
NASA’s Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge is part of a growing movement within the aviation community to develop a future urban air transport system. Here’s one artist’s rendition of how a future urban airspace might look. NASA is assessing responses to an initial Request for Information (RFI) as the first step in kicking off its Grand Challenge. Responses were due...
NASA’s Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge is part of a growing movement within the aviation community to develop a future urban air transport system. Here’s one artist’s rendition of how a future urban airspace might look.
NASA is assessing responses to an initial Request for Information (RFI) as the first step in kicking off its Grand Challenge. Responses were due November 16, 2018 and served to get a better idea of what organizations are interested in participating. Participants might include air vehicle developers, air traffic management system developers, the FAA, and others. Certain consulting firms, like Booz Allen Hamilton, have already started working through select scenarios.
The RFI document, released by NASA one month earlier, stated “each participant will each be challenged to complete a series of common safety and integration scenarios”. The actual scenarios will be released after NASA finishes assessing potential participants.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) has expressed interest in getting involved with the Grand Challenges. A briefing published by the AOPA declared Senior Director of Airspace, Air Traffic, and Aviation Security Rune Duke wrote to NASA, reminding them that for the Grand Challenges program, “collaboration with other airspace stakeholders will be key to success.” AOPA has repeatedly shown interest in tackling metropolitan air transport challenges. They recently published this video from the National Business Aviation conference in Orlando, Oct 2018.
Why it’s Important:
The Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Grand Challenge is a multi-phase program that will, over the course of several years, identify and address the key challenges associated with accessible air transport systems in metropolitan areas. The first phase, named GC-1, will kick off the program by promoting UAM and building the public’s confidence in its safety. NASA plans to sponsor community learning and a possible flight demonstration as part of this mission.
A UK design consultancy firm called ‘small’, (Six Miles Across London Ltd.) recently showed the world its latest concept for a vertiport, designed specifically for the Volocopter, which will be conducting tests in Singapore in 2019. The vertiport has a modular design that allows its exterior to fitted with lounge and seating areas, repair and spare battery storage areas, and...
A UK design consultancy firm called ‘small’, (Six Miles Across London Ltd.) recently showed the world its latest concept for a vertiport, designed specifically for the Volocopter, which will be conducting tests in Singapore in 2019.
The vertiport has a modular design that allows its exterior to fitted with lounge and seating areas, repair and spare battery storage areas, and even small dining and retail facilitates. The idea of the vertiport is essentially provide a small-scale airport.
The main creator, Small (Six Miles Across London Ltd.), is led by founder Ricky Sandhu, who has over 15 years of experience at Foster and Partners, an expert in Architectural Design and Engineering. Small was born out of the project ‘six miles across london’; a manifesto that reimagined Sandhu’s journey from home to work.
Sandhu envisions that his vertiports will take visitors between major metropolitan areas and the nearest large scale airports. As he states, this would be about a 30 minute journey in places like San Francisco or New York, which is about the range of many eVTOLs currently in development.
The vertiport was designed in collaboration with Arup, a firm responsible for over one hundred airport designs. Arup also made a concept design for Uber Elevate, as featured below.
This comes at a time when other companies have been working on a myriad of vertiport designs. One of one these is Paramount’s Miami World Center, who’s project lead hopes to cut down on commute time for residents.
Uber Elevate also recently held a competition for vertiport designs, some of the particpants of which are featured here:
Why it’s important: The evolving development of infrastructure for eVTOLs show that the future air taxi services is becoming more and more certain. Major industries are beginning to prepare for the integration of air taxis. These designs by major firms increase the public awareness of air taxis, which will lead to public assuredness sooner rather than later later.
SkyGrid is a new company jointly founded by Boeing and SparkCognition to build AI-powered software for managing airspace with autonomous vehicles. SkyGrid’s purpose is to integrate all urban airspace traffic including cargo and passenger air vehicles as well as package delivery drones. According to its website, “SkyGrid is the world’s first artificial intelligence and blockchain-powered aerial operating system for next-generation...
SkyGrid is a new company jointly founded by Boeing and SparkCognition to build AI-powered software for managing airspace with autonomous vehicles.
SkyGrid’s purpose is to integrate all urban airspace traffic including cargo and passenger air vehicles as well as package delivery drones.
According to its website, “SkyGrid is the world’s first artificial intelligence and blockchain-powered aerial operating system for next-generation travel and transport that will ensure safe integration of autonomous air vehicles.”
The SkyGrid program will enable the future of urban air mobility by providing a smart, safe, secure way for air vehicles to travel. One of SkyGrid’s greatest advantages is that it will offer AI-enabled route identification. Simply put, SkyGrid is an automated air traffic controller for autonomous vehicles in urban areas.
SkyGrid works through the power of machine learning, using big data to efficiently and safely manage aircraft routes. The system will takes into account current air traffic in the area, weather, vehicle diagnostics, and in-flight route modification when assigning routes. Eventually, SkyGrid’s goal is to provide autonomous navigation directly to vehicles.
SkyGrid plans to work with the FAA and NASA regulations to eventually achieve automated flight plan approval. Boeing is partnered with Uber Elevate, both of which have been in extensive talks with NASA and the FAA. NASA is also holding a series of Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenges that will give companies like SkyGrid a chance to prove the safety of their technology and provide a framework for regulation. The first of these challenges will be in 2020.
It’s unclear yet whether SkyGrid will only be available for autonomous vehicles, or will be used for route guidance in piloted aircraft as well. Since autonomy is likely to come later than piloted aircraft (as stated by many vehicle developers), it would make sense for Boeing to develop a version of SkyGrid that works for those initial piloted vehicles. Boeing has yet declined to state who their exact customers will be, but has stated that it is already working with several partners on many potential use cases.
The announcement of the SkyGrid venture comes four months after Boeing and SparkCognition announced their partnership in July of 2018 with the intent of creating the digital UTM system. At that time, SparkCognition CEO Amir Husai commented:
“Estimated by some analysts at $3 trillion, the urban aerial mobility opportunity will lead to the creation of the largest new market in our lifetimes.”
Husai will now also serve as the CEO of SkyGrid. He states:
“By offering scalable and robust capabilities in a single, integrated framework, SkyGrid will make large-scale air vehicle applications more practical and accessible.”
Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg put out this tweet:
— Dennis A. Muilenburg (@BoeingCEO) November 20, 2018
Why it’s important: The effective development of UTM systems is vital to a future of autonomous urban air mobility aircraft. While systems like SkyGrid and Airmap are made for autonomous operations and currently focus on drones, their development marks the first step towards safe autonomous passenger aircraft. It’s likely that UTM systems will scale from unmanned drone management to route guidance for piloted aircraft, and then eventually to autonomous passenger vehicles.
Although Amazon hasn’t named these planned helipads as vertiports, the planned Helipads for the HQ2 buildings would work well for eVTOL transport. Jeff Bezos, as many know, has many ambitions and is extremely forward thinking. He’s not only the founder and CEO of Amazon, but is also the founder of commercial space travel company Blue Origin. As Amazon has continued...
Although Amazon hasn’t named these planned helipads as vertiports, the planned Helipads for the HQ2 buildings would work well for eVTOL transport.
Jeff Bezos, as many know, has many ambitions and is extremely forward thinking. He’s not only the founder and CEO of Amazon, but is also the founder of commercial space travel company Blue Origin. As Amazon has continued to grow, it’s constantly looking to the future.
The new Amazon ‘HQ2′ buildings will be strategically placed on the East River in New York, and close to the Potomoc in Northern Virginia. Although amazon has declined to comment on the reasoning of this choice, the buildings’ proximity to these waterway will give them access to the rivers’ flight corridors. This means that Amazon wouldn’t have to wait until regulation allows eVTOLs to fly over buildings in order to begin operations to places like JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark Airport.
Designing vertiports for buildings is no easy task. According to Blade CEO Rob Wiesenthal (in an interview with Forbes), there’s no way to easily retrofit vertiports onto buildings. This means that anyone developing real estate now should consider laying the groundworks for the transportation networks of the future. Already, Landing pad plans have been made by real estate companies like Paramount in Miami, which envision cutting commutes down for their residents.
Blade, an on-demand helicopter taxi service in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, has already raised $38 million from Airbus and real estate investment firm Colony to develop vertiports in various cities. According to CEO Wiesenthal, there’s several buildings in New York that are already adding capabilities for their buildings to include landing pads, including real estate company Vornado’s redevelopment of its properties across from Manhattan’s Penn Station. According to Wiesenthal, these buildings “basically have hidden skyports”.
One other luxury VTOL developer in New York is Transcend Air, which plans on releasing its air taxi service in New York and other cities by 2024. In an interview with Forbes, Transcend Air CEO commented, “Jeff Bezos has his own spacecraft company—of course he’s thinking about the future of aerospace and transportation”.
Why its important: Announcements by real estate companies of vertiport plans are becoming more prevalent. Since real estate projects can often take a long time, it’s vital that any developers wanting to be the first to support urban air taxi transport start their projects now. The fact developers are willing to commit an urban air mobility future by investing in these projects gives even more validity to a future of urban aviation.
CEO of Boeing Dennis Muilenberg recently spoke at the Geekwire Summit early this October. His main point was this: The definition of ‘airplane’ is broadening quickly, and the new range of vehicles about to entire our airspace will require and entirely new eco-system. Muilenburg spoke extensively about air taxi systems, focusing on big picture idea that one day soon, there...
CEO of Boeing Dennis Muilenberg recently spoke at the Geekwire Summit early this October. His main point was this: The definition of ‘airplane’ is broadening quickly, and the new range of vehicles about to entire our airspace will require and entirely new eco-system.
Muilenburg spoke extensively about air taxi systems, focusing on big picture idea that one day soon, there will be an entirely new and highly extended range of vehicles in our skies.
He mentioned that this ecosystem will include everything from urban air mobility solutions to hypersonic aircraft to even commercial spacecraft. Boeing plans on working on all components of this ecosystem to develop a full aerospace traffic management system.
“That all needs an integrated traffic system. That’s part of what we’re working on with NASA and the FAA”
Muilenberg’s attendance at the GeekWire came with announcements that Boeing’s air taxi prototype will be ready to fly in 2019. As a reminder, Boeing has partnered with Aurora Fight Sciences to this end.
“Think about a future in which you will have three-dimensional highways to relieve traffic congestion,” said said Muilenberg in an interview with Bloomberg TV in Seattle. He also stated expectation that initial operations of these air taxi systems will begin within five years.
Why it’s important: As the world of urban air mobility develops, every service provider will require its own airspace traffic management system. However, these systems all have to be integrated into one overall airspace management system so that all vehicles in the sky may co-ordinate with each other. Boeing is currently working with NASA and the FAA to develop this system.
Dan Kodsi of the Paramount Miami Worldcenter project has just become one of the first real estate developers to fully commit to the future of flying cars. Dan Kodsi is CEO of the Royal Palms Companies, a real estate developer of condo residence complexes in Miami. The new building design for the Paramount Miami Worldcenter features a landing pad that...
Dan Kodsi of the Paramount Miami Worldcenter project has just become one of the first real estate developers to fully commit to the future of flying cars.
Dan Kodsi is CEO of the Royal Palms Companies, a real estate developer of condo residence complexes in Miami. The new building design for the Paramount Miami Worldcenter features a landing pad that rises out of the rooftop swimming pool that is dedicated specifically to urban air mobility vehicles. The top floor of the building will be complete made of glass, and will act as ‘sky lobby’ for commuting passengers.
A concept video from Paramount featuring the Aurora Flight Sciences (Boing) eVTOL:
Kodsi is convinced of a future for urban air mobility, saying, ““It’s not a question of if, but when.” His vision is to transform the 2-hour car commute from Miami to Palm Beach into a 30 minute flight for his residents.
He was inspired to add the launch pad to the building by the latest news from Uber Elevate, which states a 2020 goal to begin testing. Kodsi hopes that “stop-and-go traffic to the suburbs could become a burden of the past for PARAMOUNT residents.”
This news comes among many other similar stories. Last week, Burbank resident Rick Perkins, who commutes two hours daily, showcased a house he built in west Los Angeles that includes a launch pad for the Workhorse SureFly built next to the deck’s swimming pool.
And in September this year, the Taskers residential development in Australia began building the country’s first apartment building with a vertical take-off and landing space to accommodate air taxis.
The landing space will also accomodate delivery drones as well, and is designed to allow each resident their own accessibility to the landing pad to wait for their air taxi or collect a drone delivery.
Why it’s important: Apartment buildings and residences all over the world are gearing up to ensure that their spaces are accessible for VTOL air taxis. These landing pads are by no means cheap to construct, which means that these these businesses must consider the added value of the landing pads well worth the investment.
Real estate investors the world over are sure that adding air taxi compatibility to their buildings will give them a competitive edge in the market, indicating a strong future for flying cars.
On October 18th at the Autonomy and Urban Mobility Summit in Paris, the Volocopter team announced that it will collaborate with the government of Singapore to begin testing its eVTOL air taxis in the second half of 2019. The goal of Volocopter’s coming tests in Singapore is to validate feasibility of establishing air taxi services in an urban environment like...
On October 18th at the Autonomy and Urban Mobility Summit in Paris, the Volocopter team announced that it will collaborate with the government of Singapore to begin testing its eVTOL air taxis in the second half of 2019.
The goal of Volocopter’s coming tests in Singapore is to validate feasibility of establishing air taxi services in an urban environment like Singapore. Although Singapore has not yet committed to enlisting Volocopter services, Volocopter will use the 2019 flight test to identify the routes in Singapore with the most potential for success. It is currently seeking real estate partners to collaborate on the infrastructure aspect of testing, and is setting up design and engineering teams within Singapore.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has stated its belief that vehicles like the Volocopter 2X have the potential to transform logistics and mobility in the urban environment of Singapore. The CAAS and Volocopter are currently working together to ensure that all requirements such as safety and noise pollution are met and to determine the full scope of the tests before they begin in 2019. These tests will culminate with a public flight demonstration to heighten societal confidence and acceptance.
Volocopter is based in Germany and is primarily backed by Intel and automobile firm Damlier. The Volocopter 2X can fit up to two passengers and has a range of about 18 miles. It is fully electric, and can be flown either fully autonomously or by a single joystick that controls the main functions of the aircraft. Volocopter is still working with the CAAS to determine whether Singapore testing will be manned or autonomous. Learn more about the Volocopter2X.
The Volocopter 2X has held a preliminary permit to fly in Germany since 2016. In September of 2017, it completed a successful flight test in Dubai. Volocopter is collaborating with other cities as well, and has stated its expectation that air taxi services will begin operation within five years.
Volocopter Dubai flight test:
Why it’s important: The government of Singapore represents yet another country that has signed onto the future of flying cars. Dubai. The United Arab Emirates has been in talks with Uber and eHang and has hosted flight tests, New Zealand recently signed with Kittyhawk, and Japan recently founded its own air taxi initiative enlisting over 23 countries. While there may some obstacles to anticipated progress, a future of flying cars is certainly coming,
NASA has made its stance in the new flying car industry clear by recognizing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) as the next step in aviation innovation. In 2020, NASA will commence the first of it’s series of urban air mobility ‘Grand Challenges‘. These challenges will focus on allowing companies with new flight technologies to successfully demonstrate full system safety. Part of...
NASA has made its stance in the new flying car industry clear by recognizing Urban Air Mobility (UAM) as the next step in aviation innovation.
In 2020, NASA will commence the first of it’s series of urban air mobility ‘Grand Challenges‘. These challenges will focus on allowing companies with new flight technologies to successfully demonstrate full system safety. Part of the goal of this effort is to begin the process of public confidence and acceptance.
On November 1-2, NASA will host an ‘Industry Day‘ for urban air mobility. Here, it plans to gather all the players in the coming eco-system to outline and prepare for the 2020 Grand Challenge. According to NASA, attendees will be companies that are “highly motivated to participate and work with us to achieve a safe, commercial operating capability.”
“The convergence of technologies, and new business models enabled by the digital revolution, is making it possible to explore this new way for people and cargo to move within our cities,” – Jaiwon Shin, NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Research.
Another goal for the Grand Challenge is helping vehicles to achieve airworthiness certification. In collaboration with the FAA, vehicles will be put through performance tests both for normal flight and for emergency situations such as the loss of the motor. The first Grand Challenge will evaluate ground handling, taxi and takeoff, cruising capabilities and flight path changes, landing and turnaround in a variety of conditions, energy storage and battery capacity, and Management of critical systems failures.
“Now, our goals are to help develop and enable as much as possible what we like to think of as an entire ecosystem when it comes to Urban Air Mobility,” – Davis Hackenberg, UAM Engineer at NASA.
Why it’s important:
As an airspace traffic manager, NASA will play a crucial role in the new industry UAM industry. While the FAA determines certifications for aircraft, NASA will be greatly responsible for the new airspace management technologies. It has already spent the last six years working on its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System, which focuses on building a digital management ‘UAS’ system for unmanned commercial drones. The Grand Challenge event event takes the next big step for both aircraft certification and for UAS systems development.
We are on the cusp of a revolution in transportation that has far-reaching implications, from how we get across town to a change in how peoples and nations interact. Advanced aerial mobility — the impact on aviation of electric propulsion and autonomy — represents the inclusion into our transportation mix of a mode that doesn’t depend on building and maintaining every mile of connecting...
We are on the cusp of a revolution in transportation that has far-reaching implications, from how we get across town to a change in how peoples and nations interact. Advanced aerial mobility — the impact on aviation of electric propulsion and autonomy — represents the inclusion into our transportation mix of a mode that doesn’t depend on building and maintaining every mile of connecting path as expensive infrastructure. In other words, aerial mobility is a nodal transportation network, in contrast to road and rail that are linear networks. The flexibility, resilience, and low resource intensity of nodal networks are key strengths.
A nodal network’s advantages are exemplified by the ancient civilizations that excelled based on similar transportation in their time — water.
Some early civilizations developed along rivers ideal for transportation. Consider Ancient Egypt: The Nile river supported a large population under one economy and one governmental structure. Sailing across, up, or down a river, all points are directly connected with no pathways to build or maintain. Only the boats and ports need to be supplied.
Egypt’s easy transport enabled economic growth that left them able to devote resources to progress in other areas such as government, architecture, and the sciences. Egypt advanced relative to its peer civilizations and became one of the first to develop into a national identity.
Water transportation stood out again in the pre-industrial age, as advances in shipbuilding and deep-water navigation enabled countries with mastery of this technology to extend their reach across oceans. The economic and geopolitical implications were profound, including Europe’s expansion into the Americas and culminating in the British Empire.
But overland transport remained difficult, leaving regions not endowed with rivers or coastline behind. During the industrial age, new technology shifted the effort to building linear transportation networks with investments in rail and road to connect the interior. By 1880, the rich economies of Europe were crisscrossed with rail.
Roads and rail differ from water in that every mile must be built and maintained. Routes are fixed and limited in capacity. They make a permanent imprint on the landscape, influencing future behavior for centuries. These networks are costly, but for countries with large economies and strong institutions to manage the investment over time, the return on investment was and still is worth it.
In the modern age, nodal networks which dominated transportation throughout history have taken a back seat to linear networks. Today, ocean transport and commercial air travel are only a very narrow slice of our overall transportation systems. Indeed, the modern world runs primarily on roads and rail.
However, the consequences of this are growing ever more apparent. Megacity regions push the limits of road scale and congestion. Infrastructure becomes costlier to maintain with age. In the United States, our infrastructure is falling behind yet we spend $145 billion annually maintaining our road networks. That amounts to one dollar in road maintenance for every 22 miles traveled each year. In contrast, our $4.1 billion annual spending to maintain the “airside” of airports (the runways, etc.) supports 205 passenger miles per dollar spent. Even as congestion increases, such maintenance costs leave little to continue expanding our roads, particularly in already-built areas. Clearly, alternatives are needed.
The developing world has another challenge. There, it is an inability to afford a proper road network in the first place. Countries struggle under the burden of building and maintaining sufficient road networks to support economic growth that would feed a virtuous cycle. Roads deliver a benefit only once a country has invested to build out an extensive and high-quality network and then sustained that network long enough for the resultant economic growth to kick in. Compounding this, in developing economies that growth response can take longer.
That’s the theory, at least. In practice, the results are mostly disappointing. Today, the billion people living in the richest countries have 10 times more roads per person than the billion people living in the poorest countries. This proportion is consistent across sparsely as well as densely populated countries. For the poor countries to build their road networks up to the equivalent extent of the rich world, they would have to construct 13 million miles of roads — more than twice the size of the U.S. road network — and at a cost of over $5 trillion.
This deficiency is not just about economic growth — it is about missed opportunities for over a billion people. Opportunities ranging from education to health care to the ability to start and grow a new business. All of these things ultimately depend on making connections through transportation.
Rather than depend solely upon linear road networks in countries not yet able to see a return on them, I believe we can create a better solution. What is needed is a lighter-weight transportation capability that delivers essential benefits at low development and maintenance cost. By starting with a thin overlay of high-speed flexible transport, we can deliver essential or high value goods that have the greatest impact and provide a more robust connection for public services to reach remote populations. Medical supplies are an obvious starting point that are already being delivered this way. This becomes the seed of a modern form of nodal network, one not constrained to water. Advanced aerial mobility, in its many forms, can be a crucial enabler of this solution.
More broadly, aerial mobility represents a fundamental step forward allowing any society in the world to incorporate a transportation system that is nodal in nature. In a way, this is a return to what has proven superior throughout history. As a complement to linear networks, it allows us to put high-priority movements such as medical emergencies and disaster relief onto a resilient high-speed network not subject to disruption on the ground. As we gain experience, the scale and use cases expand dramatically.
But wait, are we neglecting the role aviation already plays in connecting the world? Not at all. Aviation works when we overcome the complexities of operating in aerial networks with highly trained professionals throughout the system. However, 20th-century technology has held us back from going any further. Commercial aviation is, in fact, a telltale indicator of the impact when new technology brings its benefits down to short trips and small vehicles operating on-demand. The applications and benefits are too numerous to list here but my article, Technology is Redefining Flight, describes the technological changes at work and the new platforms that are commercializing.
In this article, we’ve taken a fast trip through the long historical arc of transportation’s role in society. Through this lens, we see that flight enabled by new technology is about more than drone deliveries and air taxis. It has far-reaching implications for both megacities and remote expanses of the developing world. The incorporation of a modern nodal transportation network into society is a major step forward and offers subtle yet transformative benefits. We have a lot to look forward to, as leading edge of this transformation is already here.
About Peter Shannon
Peter Shannon is a partner at Levitate Capital and an investor in advanced aerial mobility, formerly in sustainability and tech. He is also an entrepreneur and software engineer, as an Editor for Radius Mobility.
Zunum Aero, an electric commercial airplane developer, has announced its partnership with Safran Helicopter Engines. One might wonder why an electric airplane company would partner with a helicopter engine designer and manufacturer. This is because the Zunum Aero ‘ZA10’ is actually a hybrid electric aircraft. While its motors are indeed electric, existing lithium-ion batteries simply cannot store enough energy to...
Zunum Aero, an electric commercial airplane developer, has announced its partnership with Safran Helicopter Engines.
One might wonder why an electric airplane company would partner with a helicopter engine designer and manufacturer. This is because the Zunum Aero ‘ZA10’ is actually a hybrid electric aircraft. While its motors are indeed electric, existing lithium-ion batteries simply cannot store enough energy to make the 12 passenger 700+ mile journey, so the ZA10’s electricity will partially come from an on-board jet-fuel powered electric generator. Zunum intends to make the transition to fully electric aircraft once battery technology to do so becomes feasible. For now, the use of the hybrid power train, supplied with Safran’s 1700 shaft horsepower engine, means an 80% cut in emissions, a 75% drop in cabin noise, and a 60-80% drop in energy cost as compared to traditional commercial aircraft. JetSuite has already committed to purchasing 100 ZA10’s, and the company will begin flight testing and the FAA certification in 2020.
The announcement of this partnership on October 4th comes only a few days after the global aviation aviation innovation conference ‘Revolution.aero‘ in San Francisco, which both Zunum and Safran attended. While the topic of this conference was innovation in all sectors of aviation, a great deal of the conference focused mainly on Urban Air Mobility via eVTOLs. While the Zunum ZA10 is not an eVTOL, the hybrid electric technology it is developing is highly applicable to the industry. This is especially true considering that eVTOLs of higher passenger capacity are more economically efficient, and may require hybrid systems. The conference speakers talked greatly about this idea, as well as these other key points:
The emotions around autonomous aircraft–How can we get the public to accept autonomy?
- Martin Seif – Co-Founder – Anxiety and Depression Association of America spoke about his “Freedom to Fly” which is the largest program in the US for people who are afraid to fly. –The “Anxiety of ignorance”
- 70% of people have fears around flying, about 20% have fear that interferes with their flight habits.
- The main problem is anticipatory anxiety: “the fear one experiences before something”. People deal with this by talking to the flight creq, flying widebody, or upgrading seats.
- Exposure is the active therapeutic ingredient in overcoming a fear of flight.
Why hasn’t Uber for private jets happened yet?
- The supply challenge-unlike cars, most private aircraft aren’t owned by their operators.
- The regulatory challenge–how to get FAA on board.
- The payment challenge–while an Uber transaction is $13 on avergage private jets are on average $22,600 dollars which requires 72 hours of advance processing.
- “Technology is not the solution to all aviation problems”. Interesting new business models will drive these changes, -Per Marthinsson – Founder of Avinode
- Big OEMs aren’t afraid of new energy source innovations—“Moving more people through the air is better for me”–Jon Raviv – Citigroup
- Russia, China, Mitsubishi are making strides. They need to tie build an ecosystem around these airplanes to be successful, and tie the business to someone in the industry with deep pockets to fund certification process. –John Stack, The McLean Group
- Edward Gross, Shareholder at Vedder Price: One crash with a loss of life could mean the end of business but “All things are insurable if you want to pay the price”. What price this might be is yet unknown for the UAM space
XTI Tri-Fan 600 (Bob Labelle – CEO XTI Aircraft)
- UAM will be both intra-city and inter-city
- There’s a new market emerging with no preferred solution provider yet.
- The XTI Tri-Fan 600 is built for 500 nautical-mile commutes. It has 1,100 shp engine with vertical mode supplemented by a battery pack. Four pillars of the competitive model: price ($8million), low operating cost (35 gallons per hour), high cruising altitude, 6-9 passengers.
- $400 million in sales in US, Brazil, Australia, Europe, Japan, and more. Prototype scheduled to fly in October 2018.
Airbus and the upcoming UAM revolution
- Voom Helicopter Taxi service by Airbus in São Paulo start to prove the business model.
- Now is the right time for UAM because these technologies:
- IDEP (integrated distributed electric propulsion)
- Advanced Avionics, UTM (unmanned traffic management) software, and autonomy developments
- Connected Passengers
- Growing infrastructure support
- A^3 project was setup in 2015, which includes the Airbus Vahana, Voom, and Altiscope – NextGen UTM.
- UAM systems will need to be localized, not global. And Human Air Traffic controllers are not scalable. – Uma Subramanian, Voom.flights
- Now is the right time for UAM because these technologies:
Rob Wiesenthal – Founder/CEO – Blade
- Closest thing to on-demand–7AM to 8PM guarantee a helicopter in 20 minutes
- Flights from Blade Lounge in downtown Los Angeles to LAX International Airport are only $20 more expensive than UberBlack, and are 40 minutes faster.
- 170,000 users to date
- Blade has Partnered with Colony Capital and Airbus.
Ben Marcus of Airmap, one of the forefront UTM developers based in Santa Monica, California, spoke about the future of air traffic control.