Table of Contents
The origin of the Urban Air Mobility demand:
We all spend hours to commute every day in every major city. The situation is currently quite concerning in cities like LA, San Francisco, London, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Tokyo, … With the forecasted growth of the worldwide population and the concentration of this population in urban areas, we are heading toward major Urban transportation problematics. We are reaching the limits of our traditional bi-dimensional transport network and we need to act quickly and solve this looming problem. The practical solution is to optimize the transportation infrastructure using three dimensional highways and below are the current technologies in development:
Autonomous driving technologies for ground Vehicles:
The development of autonomous driving technologies for ground vehicles is one of the solutions of the transportation problematic. With this new technology, cars won’t need to park in the city but will just drive through, dropping passengers with an optimum efficiency. Forget about parking space as we won’t need to park anymore. Think about wider roads sized to face this growth of the population transport needs. The current model of owning a car might even disappear for group leasing solution or on demand transport service. This technology is not about providing a new transportation solution but to significantly optimize the efficiency of our bi-dimensional transportation network. To learn more, I highly recommend connecting with Teague, a company based in Seattle who is working with main corporations to help them apprehend future market changes and to facilitate their adaptation.
Tunneling technology development:
Solving this transportation problematic takinga three-dimensional approach and developing underground transportation solutions. One of the investors promoting this technologies is Elon Musk. After spending hours stuck in Los Angeles traffic, he decided to create The Boring company with the main objective to solve traffic jams by digging tunnels under LA. Elon Musk’s main challenge with this project remains to reduce the tunneling cost to make the business case viable on a large scale in metropolitan area. The company is working on tunneling technologies to reduce the digging time, one of the solutions being to design narrower tunnels using faster machines.
Using the air space for our urban transportation needs:
The Urban Air Transportation solution is, on paper, a great solution for our future transportation needs in Cities. Even if the development of this solution is probably going to be slow due to various factors (regulation, technology, traffic control,…), the potential is very high.
The Urban Air Transportation experience:
Think about working downtown in a major city and leaving work during rush hour. You would go to the closest parking rooftop which has been transformed to accommodate the eVTOL air transport. After waiting just a few minutes, you are traveling on board of your electric aircraft avoiding traffic and getting home more relaxed. What about the cost? You would pay as much as an Uber or a Lyft fare going the same distance.
The Urban Air Transport market:
According to Porsche Consulting, Inc., the Urban Air Transportation market is estimated to reach 32B$ by 2035.
Currently, we are seeing multiple Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft being designed in different countries (see main actors comparative analysis below). The supply chain is currently not established because of the new type of requirements coming with the design of these aircraft. Current VTOL manufacturers are indeed analyzing solutions coming from different industries including traditional aerospace suppliers. With high volume, low cost and high safety standards, these new requirements create several new business opportunities for the years to come.
Urban Air Transportation Aircrafts:
On the current market, three VTOL aircraft design models stand out:
Urban Air Mobility: The multirotor design
This design has the advantage to have a shorter certification time. The German company Volocopter or their Chinese competitor EHang have already shown aircraft flying with a test pilot. They will probably be the first aircraft to hit the market with a target of late 2020 for the first delivery. The drawback of this solution is the limited range and a reduced speed in comparison with the other types of design.
Urban Air Mobility: The lift and Cruise
This design such as the Tilt design will have a slower certification process and should arrive on the market a bit later. Uber, Airbus, Lilium, are targeting 2023 for the first commercial flight in selected cities. The Lift & Cruise and Tilt solutions provide a more efficient design in cruise mode than the multirotor design which results in a higher range and speed.
Urban Air Mobility: The Tilt design
The Tilt solution is certainly the most optimized design. The propellers used for the vertical takeoff are the same than for the cruise. This results in a higher average speed than the two other designs which could be appreciated for city to city transportation.
Main Urban Air transport Aircrafts in development
Here are the main projects currently in development. The projects have different size, from university applied studies to 300 engineers start up backed by corporate or VC investments. We note the large number of all electric and hybrid solutions that are well adapted for this market. The current trend is to propose an all electric solution (aircraft will rely on a battery) for range under 100km and proposing the hybrid (gas turbine generating the electric power) version to increase that range.
Proposing an hybrid solution allows to have a better aircraft performance with today’s technology and have a system to swap to full electric in the futur. We note some innovative and challenging project with Fuel Cell powered aircrafts that have on the paper huge benefits but are extremely challenging (certification, safety).
|Aurora Flight Sciences LightningStrike (defunct)||0||USA||Hybrid Electric||www.aurora.aero|
|Joby Aviation Lotus (defunct)||0||USA||Hybrid Electric|
|Boeing Cargo Aerial Vehicle||0||USA|
|AgustaWestland Project Zero||1||ITALY||Hybrid Electric|
|Kitty Hawk Flyer||1||10-20||USA||Electric||www.Flyer.aero|
|Bat 600||2||GER||Electric / hybrid|
|DeLorean Aerospace DR-7||2||USA||Electric|
|Joby Aviation S2 (defunct)||2||USA|
|VerdeGo Aero PAT200||2||USA||Hybrid|
|Vertical Aerospace (unmanned)||2||UK||Electric|
|Aurora Flight Sciences eVTOL||2||USA||Electric||www.aurora.aero|
|Kitty Hawk Cora||2||100km||USA||Electric||www.cora.aero|
|Astro AA360 (“Passenger Drone”)||2||25min||USA||Electric||FlyAstro.com|
|Airbus Helicopters CityAirbus||2||France||Electric|
|Aston Martin Volante||3||UK||Hybrid Electric|
|Joby Aviation S4||4||246km||USA||Electric|
|Terrafugia TF-2 Tiltrotor||4||500km||USA||Hybrid|
|Vickers WAVE eVTOL||4||NZ||Electric|
|Zenith Altitude EOPA||4||463km||Canada||Hybrid|
|Napoleon Aero VTOL||4||100km||Russia||Electric|
|Terrafugia TF-2 Lift + Push||4||400km||USA||Hybrid|
|AirspaceX MOBi||5||104 km||USA||Electric|
|Ray Research VTOL Aircraft||5||1800km||Swiss||Hybrid|
|Axix SkyRider SuvA||5||USA||Electric|
|Carter Air Taxi||6||USA||Electric|
|XTI Aircraft Trifan 600||6||1060km||USA||Hybrid|
|Urban Aeronautics CityHawk||9||300km||Israel||Hydrogen Engine|
|aeroG Aviation aG-4||12||?||USA||Hybrid Electric|
|Bartini Flying Car||2/4||150/550km||Russia||Electric/ Hydrogen||www.bartini.aero|
|Neoptera eOpter||2-5||UK/France||Hybrid/ FC|
|KARI PAV||4-5||50km||S Korea||Electric|
|Transcend Air Vy 400||5-6||450miles||USA||Hybrid|
|Bell Air Taxi||Not annouced||Not annouced||USA||Not annouced|
|SKYLYS Aircraft AO||USA|
Other ressources on the topic
If you want to start your own eVTOL project, we advise you to check on UBER’s website the technical datas that are available to the public. Here is one of our previous post commenting their VSP model.
Here is an other article that will answer the main questions about eVTOL aircraft (technology, noise, range,…)
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