With the sudden unexpected onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the future of the aerial mobility sector was very much in question during early mid-2020. According to a recent article from AIN Online, with the start of a new year, while the general fallout from the pandemic did hinder some progress from smaller aerial mobility companies, several notable aerial mobility firms such as Volocopter, Lilium, and Joby Aviation continued to forge ahead. 

The start of a new year could see several companies pull ahead from the rest, as the consensus among independent observers seems to be that no more than a dozen or so of these new aircraft will see the commercial light of day. As the pandemic dies down during the course of this year, there will also be more scrutiny as to whether many of these aircraft developers will meet the timelines proposed when first introducing their aircraft; the earliest dates for commercial release is near the end of 2023, just 24 months away. 

Joby Aviation acquired Uber Elevate near the end of 2020, as one of the major events of the aerial mobility industry

2021 will also likely clarify the regulatory outlook for these new aerial mobility aircraft, giving developers a clearer path to type certification. As 2020 closed, there were reasons for optimism that leading regulators FAA and EASA were edging closer to defining safety means of compliance to cover new architectures and propulsion systems. While the consensus for approval of operation for these new aircraft are not yet resolved, optimism is high.

The continued development of the aerial mobility industry also saw a slight shift in focus away from solely focusing on urban air mobility models, as several companies began looking at a broader range of applications that may be easier to implement in the short-term, such as operations in less densely populated areas for emergency medical support or freight deliveries. These applications also seem to favor fixed-wing designs using conventional or hybrid propulsion for which the technology risks of getting to market are lower. It also saw the more inclusive designation advanced air mobility increasingly vie for favor with the more specific urban air mobility.

Lilium stays as one of the most promising aerial mobility companies to enter 2021.

Another trend to be alert to is more of the long-anticipated consolidation involving start-ups either being acquired by larger entities with deeper pockets or disappearing after running out of financial runway. 2020 began with Japanese carmaker Toyota spending $394 million to partially acquire Joby Aviation as part of a $590 million Series C funding round. No sooner had that happened than Korean rival Hyundai announced it had allocated $1.5 billion to buy a place in the eVTOL stakes with a direct investment in a new aircraft program. This trend seems likely to continue.

Hyundai joins in the race to develop the aerial mobility sector, and looks to only improve in 2021.

Why it’s important: 2020 brought many changes to the aerial mobility industry, and 2021 looks to be similar. With the COVID pandemic as well as the general growth of the aerial mobility industry, we are quickly seeing how the aerial mobility industry develops, as well as which companies look to be the most promising. 

Source // AIN Online

Posted by Ian Shin

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