Opinion: NY Helicopter Ban Will Put America Even Further Behind

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There’s a new helicopter ban being put forward for the city of New York that, on the surface, seems kind of OK. “We want to stop rich people from flying to the Hamptons,” to paraphrase one populist headline, “the helicopters are just too loud.” That’s just the surface, though. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the big benefactors of this law aren’t the delicate eardrums of New York’s middle/serving class — it’s the car companies.

A Little Context

Image courtesy CitySights NY.

If you’re an American living in a flag-waving, corn-growing flyover state and have never traveled to Europe or China or Japan, you probably buy into that whole “greatest country on Earth” thing. It’s hard to blame you, since you’ve only ever been presented with mag-lev and bullet trains as multi-billion dollar, “futuristic” things, but the real work of moving people and things effectively around cities are “normal,” — slow trains. And, while less sexy, they are remarkably good at it.

So, why don’t we have light rail systems like that in America?

First of all, rich cities like New York and Chicago do have those things — and they’ve served the people of those cities faithfully and affordably for a century, if not longer.

Out west, some cities have pushed for light rail, but between Elon Musk funneling billions in tax dollars into his laughable Loop/”shitty subways in cars” projects and companies like GM literally buying up rail systems and dismantling them in order to boost the sales of new cars, I think it’s safe to say that the bad guys have well and truly won this fight … and, if they get this helicopter ban in NYC, they’ll win the next one, too.

Why eVTOL Air Taxis are Like Light Rail

Image courtesy EHang, via Aviation Today.

The way the helicopter ban is written doesn’t specifically target eVTOL air taxis, but it doesn’t limit its scope to just helicopters, either. Instead, it refers to “rotary-wing aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing,” which would include projects from companies like Hyundai and Joby Air, and maybe even more jet-like projects like Lilium.

That’s bad news for people hoping to make use of quicker, more efficient, and electrified air travel options in NY, but it’s worth noting that NYC will be setting a precedent here. And that precedent will likely influence other cities, which will hold back the progress of developing air taxi networks in the US. But, crucially, only in the US.

America Loses Again

Large-scale adoption of eVTOL air taxis isn’t some far-off, futuristic thing. The Chinese city of Guangzhou has been acting as a sort-of “pilot city” for EHang, makers of a low-altitude aviation, eVTOL-powered transportation network that would shuttle passengers and goods — and it’s been in use since way back in 2019 … after beginning passenger flights even further back, in 2016!

In the last few years EHang has already proven that eVTOL vehicles can safely, reliably, and efficiently keep the people (and economy!) of a city moving.

“We are very excited about exploring the various meaningful ways in which AAVs can solve some of the stressors our congested cities face,” said Hu Huazhi, EHang founder, chairman, and CEO. “We are in conversations with other cities, not just in China, to develop safe, efficient and affordable autonomous air transportation.”

And, while there are still unanswered questions, you have to realize that EHang completed thousands of flights both inside and outside of China to ensure that its AVVs could be operated safely, even in harsh weather conditions, before beginning to build out the UAM test city project (again, back in 2019). “Safety has been the top priority for EHang from day one,” said Hu.

The logistics and delivery side of things, too, present a challenge. There are concerns of efficiency gains, cost, and similar questions of safety and reliability. To help answer those questions, EHang is working with both the international shipping giants DHL (through DHL-Sinotrans) and the Chinese retail company Yonghui. Those early tests seem promising, with the EHang Falcon UAV reportedly reducing DHL’s delivery time for an 8 km trip in Guangzhou from 40 minutes to just 8 minutes – which saves both time and money.

That’s just China. Japan, Singapore, and even Australia are committing vast resources to the eVTOL infrastructure of the future, with fully 400 parking garages being repurposed for eVTOL use in Australia alone … and that’s just ONE company. There are literally like a dozen more. (!)

It’s impossible to know for sure why this is suddenly a problem in NY now, right when the auto industry is facing threats on all sides, but it is a sudden problem. Throughout the 2010s, the city’s 311 hotline rarely received more than 1,000 complaints about helicopters in a year. Last year, the number of calls shot up to more than 26,000. (!!!)

And, that, as the kids say, “is sus AF.”

I think NY passing this helicopter ban would be a huge mistake, and further hold back the people of this country while continuing to fluff up the oil and auto industries, but maybe I’ve left my tin hat on for too long — what do you guys think? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know.

Original content from CleanTechnica.

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