Personal air transportation has traditionally been limited to private helicopters and private jets, but as electric aerial mobility becomes a reality, the private aviation industry begins the transition toward accommodation and management of electric aircraft.
Because traditional methods of personal air travel such as helicopter and private jet charters are prohibitively expensive, personal travel by air has mainly remained a luxury only for the wealthy. However, eVTOLs (electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft) will be both more affordable to both operate and maintain, making them far more accessible to the public than former options. As a result, these new flight operations will have much higher daily flight volumes than traditional charter, which will create the need for new types of fleet management systems.
Companies that currently manage these aircraft and their charter operations, such as JetEdge, Wing Aviation, FlexJet, and more recently BLADE Urban Air Mobility have a depth of experience in handling the massive task of optimizing fleet management. However, unlike ground transportation companies like Uber, due to their lower volumes and more fluctuating prices, a large proportion of these companies manually manage each chartered flight. This means that although members of their teams are experts in fleet management and optimization, there is no background software that manages charter request reception, quote issuance, and backend operation execution without substantial human intervention. eVTOL aerial mobility companies such as Lilium, Joby Aviation, and others seek to use software to make the air travel experience more similar to the ride-hailing ground transportation experience of today – a development that is crucial in wide spread commercial applications of aerial mobility.
It will be interesting to observe moving forward which of these operator companies choose to branch out their expertise into this sector. Will companies like Joby or Lilium create their own fleet management systems from scratch? Or, will they pull simultaneously from ground ride-hailing companies like Uber as well traditional charter operators to create entirely new systems? So far, the latter seems to be the approach by highly successful Joby Aviation, which recently received an airworthiness certification from the USAF for its eVTOL, and acquired Uber Elevate during a similar time period.
Another question will be how traditional charter infrastructure organizations choose to integrate with aerial mobility infrastructure that is being built in major cities. Traditionally, private jet charter patrons have elected to receive ground transportation from an FBO (a private terminal at airports for private charters) to their final destination. However, as eVTOLs begin to get more popular, these charter patrons may soon rather travel by eVTOL to their final destinations rather than wait in traffic. Already, companies like Ross Aviation (an FBO company that has terminals at many major airports around the US), have partnered with BLADE Urban Air Mobility to begin planning eVTOL vertiport infrastructure at their respective FBOs. This indicates that both BLADE’s and Ross’s eventual intent is allow charter patrons to board eVTOLs directly from private jet charters. As the eVTOL industry grows, vertiports throughout major cities will become more prevalent, allowing these charter patrons to fly directly to their hotels, conferences, or business meeting locations without ever needing to step into a car.
The decisions and responses to the challenges of fleet management will in turn end up transforming eVTOL travel into a common method of transportation used by people from all parts of society. As the world begins to move to a more eVTOL oriented future, companies both past, present, and future will begin to shape the infrastructure world that will enable eVTOL.
Why it’s important: Companies the world over are beginning to make decisions that will enable certain pathways toward the growing world of eVTOL. Experts from aircraft management, companies in ground transportation ride-hailing, and new eVTOL creators will likely combine their efforts to create the eVTOL oriented world of the the future. As the newer companies continue to grow, watching which decisions are made and which partnerships are formed will provide a clearer and clearer picture of the concrete logistics that will make eVTOL work.