Detroit City Airport, home of Airspace Experience Technologies (ASX), is a dilapidated plot of land; however, Jon Rimanelli swears he sees the future of mobility taking off from its cracked and overgrown tarmack in a few years’ time.
“Look, there’s 760 million passengers that enplane at the nation’s top 50 airports every year, and there’s like 13,000 airports that are underutilized in the United States,” he says. “There’s a gap in air mobility and vehicle platforms that connect the big airports to the small ones like this one and urban centers to suburbs. If you do that, you end up with a distributed network of air transportation and literally tens of thousands of new aircraft that will be pulled into the system.”
Rimanelli intends to build those aircraft. He’s CEO of Airspace Experience Technologies, or ASX, a Detroit startup creating the Mobi-One, an electric vertical takeoff-and-landing aircraft capable of carrying cargo and passengers. Smaller-scale prototypes are already hovering around City Airport; a test mule should be ready in the next 60 days and a full-scale prototype should be operational by the fall of 2020. Once aloft, Rimanelli says, the aircraft could usher in a new era of urban air mobility, linking travelers to key destinations five times faster than conventional modes of transportation do — at prices comparable to those offered in today’s ride-hailing networks.
To achieve this, Rimanelli plans to apply strategies from the mature automotive industry to the production and operation of a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles. ASX hopes to benefit from the economies of scale accompanied with high-volume production, and will rely on Detroit’s traditional automotive supply base, and repurpose it for aviation use. “We’ve got this great industrial base here, we’ve got skilled labor and capacity,” he says. “We can leverage this at scale and make it an accessible product that everyone can afford through ride-sharing programs.”
Production could start as early as 2022, when ASX intends to launch its first wave of aircraft for use in the logistics and emergency-response industries. In June, ASX signed a memorandum of understanding with TPS Logistics, a $1.5 billion global transportation company in Troy, Mich., to explore such possibilities. The Mobi-One will be used for cargo applications before passengers may board the vehicle starting in 2025.
The aircraft is slated to have an all-electric range of 65 miles, enough to get from one side of a major city to the other or, alternately, ferry passengers from suburbs to major airports. A version with a hybrid powertrain could extend the range to 260 miles. The Mobi-One will also have the ability to takeoff vertically in space-limited areas and helipads, or horizontally on a traditional aircraft runways. More technical specifications on the Mobi-One can be found in the TransportUP Hangar.
Why it’s important: ASX will leverage its location in Detroit, Michigan to glean decades of manufacturing improvements and supply chain establishment from the automotive industry. The company has ambitious plans to build high quantities of their Mobi-One eVTOL, and has the potential to ramp up hub operations in a short timeline. ASX plans to remain both the manufacturer and operator of its fleet, which poses challenges due to expertise required in both facets.
Source // Automotive News