May 24, 2019, ©. Leeham News: “Stop dreaming, Start making” was the angle of Airbus responsible for Urban Air Mobility (UAM), Eduardo Dominguez Puerta, presenting during Airbus Innovation days in Toulouse this week.
He also said, over 90% of the present UAM projects will not make it into a certified operational platform. Here’s why.
Puerta said the motivation for Urban Air Mobility is there, Figure 1. It will start off as a service for the wealthy, then migrate to the masses. This is how most new ways of transportation have progressed.
While there will be a lot of skills needed to achieve a functioning eco-system, Figure 3, having all the function blocks in place for a viable Urban Air Mobility system is not the main hurdle for the projects.
Urban Air Mobility is about transporting people over the heads of other people. It will only be allowed with absolute safety. And certifying a vehicle to this absolute safety requires the certification rules which stipulates what must be achieved. For the propulsion system. For the navigation system. For the automated flight.
But these regulations do not exist. In fact, they are not even in the making. First discussions have started, but not more.
Airbus has two flying UAMs, the Vahana (Silicon Valley, Figure 4) and CityAirbus (Airbus Helicopter at Donauworth Germany, Figure 5).
Neither of these will make it to a certified vehicle says Puerta. As there are no certification rules, they couldn’t be designed to be certifiable. They are demonstrators, as are all the other Urban Air Mobility vehicles. And this is what will kill most projects.
When investor learns their spent money has not brought them close to a practical system, and this requires a long wait for rules, followed by design, production and certification of a different vehicle, they will stop. Only a few projects will make it through to certification when the rules will finally be there, says Puerta.
Puerta said Airbus will not invest in further vehicle projects until certification rules are there. And to get these rules requires Airbus to engage with its competitors to help authorities create these rules.
This is now the top priority, not further flying vehicles, as they don’t bring Airbus closer to the goal, a functioning Urban Air Mobility system.