Within a decade, technological advances could profoundly subvert urban transport. Unmanned, take-off and landing aircraft, eVTOLs, can come.
Although their spread is hampered by even more serious problems today, their emergence in the aerospace industry and aviation could bring about revolutionary changes similar to those currently seen in the automotive industry. One hundred years ago, Glenn Curtiss, a pioneer of American aviation and one of the founders of the U.S. aerospace industry, dreamed of three-seater, detachable-wing “flying cars” that shortened hours on the ground for hours on air. After a century, Curtiss’s dream seems to be coming true. A new type of vehicle is emerging that could revolutionize the transport of goods and passengers between and within cities. These are electric or hybrid-electric vehicles capable of vertical take-off and landing that deliver the traffic to the destination quieter, faster and cheaper than conventional helicopters. This category is hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing, i.e. eVTOL unmanned aerial vehicle.
Identified problems encountered during practice and development that could hinder the spread of these revolutionary new types of vehicles. EVTOL is not a fully fledged technology today. They need to create reliable engines, high-precision positioning systems, advanced detection and accident prevention solutions to make the technology a success. Answering energy management questions is also key. The infrastructure needed to operate eVTOLs must also be built. In addition to take-off and landing areas, car parks, charging and service stations, emergency landing sites, the creation of a communication and control network and a unified operating system is also inevitable.
Defining the operational framework is a very serious challenge. It is no wonder that, in addition to vehicle development, eVTOL manufacturers are working together to create a regulatory framework for air taxi transport. The biggest challenge is to operate airspace with increased traffic safely and efficiently. An unmanned vehicle traffic management system capable of interoperating with existing air traffic systems needs to be developed. This will require a reliable and secure communication network, a predictable and consistent navigation system and constant monitoring. Deloitte surveyed people’s perceptions of eVTOLs in a 10,000 consumer survey. Nearly half of respondents say technology is a great solution against traffic jams, but 80 percent believe these devices are not completely safe.
A key question, then, is whether manufacturers can overcome these fears. If the difficulties are overcome, eVTOLs can bring about revolutionary change in three areas. For conventional aircraft, ie airplanes and helicopters, it is expected that many more eVTOLs involved in the transport of passengers and goods will be able to fly, so the airspace will have to be divided and managed separately. How the two systems work side by side is up to governments and local governments to determine. Authorities will have to decide what certificate of airworthiness unmanned vehicles will be able to travel and if they will meet the requirements.
Building the facilities needed to serve eVTOLs in the city is neither easy nor cheap. It is inevitable that not only businesses but also local governments will be involved in creating these conditions. Just as the advent of electric cars has forced traditional automakers to step in, serious changes can be expected in the aviation industry. Just as car and travel sharing services, combined with the benefits of technological advances and geolocation, have reshaped the image of urban transport, eVTOL technology will change air traffic between and within cities. Deloitte estimates that the market for new types of aircraft could reach $ 17 billion by 2040.
Technology is evolving rapidly, in addition to multinational giants, small technology startups are already working on the development of eVTOL. These include the Slovenian Pipistrel, the British VRCO and RollsRoyce, the American AirspaceX or Bell, and the Brazilian Embraer, so the first eVTOLs could appear in the skies of cities in as little as a decade, fully integrated into transporting their passengers or shipments.