A little while back, the Vertical Flight Society announced a partnership with Nexa Advisors to determine urban air mobility (UAM) investments from 2020–2040. The report shows that industry revenue is projected to top $318 billion by then.
UAM Budget High Angle Of Attack Take-Off
The “Urban Air Mobility—Economics and Global Markets” study was to understand how the global economy is connected with point-to-point air service and how surface transit times for people and goods in the world’s major metropolitan communities continue to increase. The recent technology advancements, investments, and aircraft developments mean more UAM investments. The study also highlights the need for infrastructure in major metropolitan areas between 2020 to 2040 if they want to compete in UAM. Nexa calls this the “DNA,” which includes current transportation issues, existing mobility infrastructure, and much more. The study can help cities determine whether they can be an early or late adopter of electric vertical takeoff & landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
The Nexa and VFS study sees vertiports and air traffic management as the key focus in 74 cities globally. 5 key segments became apparent: business aviation, on-demand air taxis, airport shuttles, emergency services, and regional point-to-point charters ranging up to 250 miles for service range.
UAM Is All-Inclusive, Helicopters Welcome
And for those who see these eVTOL and eCTOL aircraft as the swan dance for helicopters, think again. Helicopter use will continue to be part of the solution to meet the rising demand UAM will create.
This study comes on the heels of another interesting study, “The NASA Urban Air Mobility Grand Challenge” study, which will launch in 2020 (see the Executive Summary here by Crown Consulting.) This study explored 3 potential Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) and eVTOL use cases and their viability in 15 US cities. The study included last-mile delivery (for packages), air metro (an autonomous public transit style commuter system), and air taxi (an autonomous on-demand ridesharing system).
It found commercial viability for last-mile parcel delivery and air metro by 2030, but not a widespread air taxi market due to high investment costs, as expected. The idea of high-net-worth individuals and businesses using various newer air taxi solutions most likely will happen first, as with any new technology introduction. The study concluded that it is “critical to evaluate UAM in terms of specific use cases” and the “viability of specific UAM use cases likely requires a holistic approach that takes into account a complex ecosystem.”
The second study looked at 3 potential UAM markets — Airport Shuttle, Air Taxi, and Air Ambulance — in 10 target urban areas. There seems to be a case for the Airport Shuttle and Air Taxi segments as viable markets with a “significant total available market value of $500 billion at the market entry price points in the best-case unconstrained scenario.”
The report doesn’t feel the air ambulance market served by eVTOL aircraft will be viable due to technology constraints. It found that a hybrid VTOL aircraft would make the market potentially viable and presumably help the latter. As expected, the report highlights a need for a “significant legal/regulatory, certification, public perception, infrastructure, and weather constraints.” It concludes by saying that “after applying operational constraints/barriers, 0.5% of the total available market worth $2.5B can be captured in the near term.”
Basically, the report finds that there are no capacity limitations and demand is not constrained by a willingness to pay.
UAM, eVTOL, & eCTOL Aircraft Are Here To Stay Despite Current Technology Limitations
Both UAM reports were commissioned by NASA for the launch of its first urban air mobility “Grand Challenge.” It will serve as an integrated vehicle and airspace operational environment as a “proving ground” for vehicle developers.