Flying cars and drone taxis driving in disciplined lines are the product of fantasy and so far only occur in movies. However, a recent international study by KPMG highlights that the conditions are in place for the vision to come true. According to KPMG analysts, the question today is not whether our technology is advanced enough, but when and with what business models market players will enter the competition.
Urban aviation – or, as the study suggests, UAM (Urban Air Mobility) – could be the next step in metropolitan and suburban transport systems, according to KPMG, and is projected to be in the order of millions by the end of the next decade, showing lightning-fast development. KPMG, an audit, tax and business consulting company, writes in its press release.
One of the keys to a sudden change is the device itself, a vehicle that can fly without a runway. Although helicopters became available for commercial use from the 1950s, they have not been able to spread on a mass scale to this day. There are several reasons for this: it makes a cumbersome, uncomfortable, dangerous impression, and last but not least, it is still terribly expensive. Because of this, few people can afford it, the rich remain a toy. It is also polluting.
Now, however, an alternative technology is available, an electric helicopter capable of vertical take-off and landing, or rather a drone, called eVTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing), various versions of which have gone beyond the prototype stage in the offer of several manufacturers.
The key to eVTOL is that it works with more electric motors, not one like conventional helicopters. Thanks to this innovation, an eVTOL aircraft is quiet, light, eco-friendly, and therefore the number of landing areas does not limit its spread. An important factor in the success is that these vehicles will be autonomous from the first minute, communicating with each other and with ground control. Thanks to advances in technology, urban aviation could be a much more efficient and popular service in the future.
The question arises as to where these vehicles fit into urban transport? KPMG expects that UAM will soon be available at similar prices as premium taxis or first-class trains, while saving significant time. The target audience will first be the people who can afford to avoid downtown and suburban traffic jams. Over time, prices will fall and mass spread is expected. KPMG estimates that by 2030, urban aviation could register 12 million flights as a service, while by 2050 this figure could jump to 400 million a year, accounting for up to 4 percent of total air traffic.
While at first only the airport transport of busy and wealthy businessmen is triggered by the drone taxi, it will later show up en masse in multi-point transport within the city, then gaining civil rights in the agglomeration and beyond, becoming an integral part of public transport. KPMG has so far identified 70 cities where congestion, population growth and high purchasing power have contributed to the emergence of UAM. Of these, 23 are in Asia, 16 in North America, and 15 in Europe. Unfortunately, Budapest is not yet on the list of the most likely cities.
Two companies, Lilium and Volocopter, are reportedly at the forefront of the development of flying taxis. The former plans a commercial air taxi service by 2025, while the latter would launch its own program in as little as two years.
Volocopter plans to launch its program for the first time in Asia, for which it has already introduced the first VoloPort in Singapore, and the air taxi station has a passenger terminal in addition to the runway.