The European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) is an annual gathering of people from every corner of the business aviation world, including business leaders, government officials, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), contractors, and operators. The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA), the leading association for business aviation in Europe, and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the leading voice for the business aviation industry in the United States, jointly host the event each year in Geneva, Switzerland.
Urban Air Mobility (UAM) expert Cyrus Sigari gave a detailed “State of the Union” briefing on the UAM industry as a whole. He later moderated a panel of eVTOL and UAM experts and business leaders at the exhibition on May 23. The discussion featured a wide array of innovators, from aerospace giant Airbus to startups companies like Volocopter. During the panel, Sigari emphasized the complexity that comes with building up an eVTOL solution and bringing it to market. “You have to build at least four different business units at the same time: manufacturing, certification, training and services,” which makes it “way harder” than simply introducing a new traditional airframe solution.
Our ongoing Comprehensive Market Survey currently captures over 80 of these vehicles designed by companies all working to provide a solution for more efficient and effective urban air mobility. Though the same challenges exist – powering the vehicle, abiding by environmental standards and regulations, and integrating with air and ground infrastructure, to name a few – each solution could take a myriad of forms. EHANG and Volocopter, for example, utilize fixed rotor propulsion which have been optimized for shorter trips, while others such as Airbus’ Vahana utilize variable angle rotors in conjunction with a winged lifting surface for greater efficiency during longer intercity connections. Additionally, companies like Airbus and Lilium are pursuing great examples of what Sigari referred to as a “full-stack operator” model, where a single company aims to design, build, and operate their own UAM technology in a vertically integrated fashion. Ultimately, “we want to sell the ride directly to you,” according to Pascal Traverse, general manager for autonomy research at Airbus.
This panel at EBACE2019 was also an opportunity for discussions regarding regulation and infrastructure, what many argue to be the crux of standing up a viable urban air mobility industry. The potential for highly-trafficked, low-altitude airspace in urban areas, combined with the integration of unmanned systems, mandates that this effort be highly collaborative between eVTOL operators, regulatory agencies, and city legislators. Volocopter’s head of business development, Christian Bauer, cited this as why “we always approach cities and regulators first, because we have to start and land somewhere.”
Why its important: These productive international gatherings of the world’s top business aviation professionals serve as an accelerator for an already rapidly-growing urban air mobility industry. The ideas and relationships formed at these discussions around the globe will continue to serve as the foundation necessary to tackle regulatory and infrastructural obstacles.
TransportUP would like to thank the EBAA and NBAA for hosting another successful year of the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition. The content of this article is derivative of a publication first made on May 23, 2019 on the EBACE webpage.