Hybridization of aerial mobility solutions is crucial to quick progress in the industry and piloting solutions that allow designers to fail “early and often” in the implementation of eVTOL systems.
When “fail” is used, it’s not in the sense of a technical shortcoming or mechanical failure, but rather in the sense that the operational platforms and the logistical challenges that must be met to scale commercial air taxi operations to hundreds of thousands. This approach to scaling the customer experience and the supporting infrastructure in eVTOL operations is an easily overlooked task – but will play a large role in the longer term success of aerial mobility applications.
Questions such as “how do I board” or “how is this different than an airplane” must be addressed (and are currently the content of a number of surveys) but on an even larger scope the general customer funnel from knowledge of eVTOLs as a form of transportation to customer acquisition and re-activation needs to be understood through acquired data of consumer trends. Companies such as Uber are at a great advantage in this regard, already being the owners of a massive pool of rider data, as are customers who have large airline or corporate aviation fleets and the experience to understand how to custom tailor routing and operational profiles to maximize efficiency and filled seats.
This same trade study is ongoing in aerial mobility, with one important caveat: the ability to fail is impeded by the requirements of inducing a possible failure mode of an airspace management and integration platform for thousands of flights per day in a specific urban environment, just as the requirements of “testing” operations with an eVTOL landing every minute at a vertiport, performing a quick turn during which passengers and a fresh battery are loaded, and then turning around for a brand new flight with a to be determined destination are virtually impossible to simulate.
What then, if any, conclusions can be drawn today from the aerial mobility industry’s past progress? Hybridization of propulsion, of flight crew integration, airspace integration, and infrastructure use are key to enabling early failures and sorting out problems today that will increase in scope and scale of required investment for resolution in the future.
Why it’s important: At the highest level, using hybridized solutions to aerial mobility applications will allow greater technology maturity than would targeting a fully developed system. If this approach is adopted, such as use of cargo drones, optionally piloted PAV’s, or multi-purpose heli/vertiports, a larger amount of discovery of problems at scale will occur which enable resolution of key eVTOL integration question earlier than they would be reached with a fully developed system.