Flying cars and drone taxis driving in orderly queues are still to come, but the moment is approaching when these vehicles will become a normal part of urban transport. But a recent international study by KPMG shows that the conditions are in place to make this vision a reality. 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 race.
Urban Air Mobility (UAM), as the study refers to it, could be the next step in metropolitan and suburban transport systems, according to KPMG, which predicts that it could appear in millions of cities around the world by the end of the next decade, showing lightning-fast growth.
One key to this sudden change is the vehicle itself, a vehicle that can fly without a runway. Although helicopters became available for commercial use in the 1950s, they have not yet been able to spread on a mass scale. There are several reasons for this: they are cumbersome, inconvenient, give the impression of being dangerous and, last but not least, remain terribly expensive. Moreover, it is polluting to no small extent. It is therefore affordable for few people and remains a plaything of the rich, even as an air taxi, with high prices.
However, an alternative technology is now available: the electric helicopter, or rather drone, capable of vertical take-off and landing (e-VTOL), whose various versions have passed the prototype stage in the range of several manufacturers.
The question arises: where do these vehicles fit into urban transport? KPMG expects that UAM will soon be available at prices comparable to premium taxis or first class trains, while offering significant time savings. The target audience will initially be people who can afford to avoid inner-city and suburban congestion. Over time, prices will come down and mass take-up is expected. KPMG estimates that by 2030, urban aviation as a service could account for 12 million journeys, while by 2050 this figure could rise to 400 million per year, accounting for up to 4% of total air traffic.
The key is the design of the eVTOL, which has several electric motors instead of one like conventional helicopters. Thanks to this innovation, an eVTOL is quiet, lightweight, eco-friendly and therefore not limited in the number of areas it can land in. An important factor for success is that these vehicles will be autonomous from the start, communicating with each other and with ground control. Thanks to technological progress, urban air transport could become a much more efficient and popular service in the future.
While at first the electric drone will only be used to transport busy and wealthy businessmen to the airport, it will later be used in mass urban intercity transport and will become an integral part of public transport in the conurbation and beyond. So far, KPMG has identified 70 cities where congestion, population growth and high purchasing power have given rise to UAM. Of these, 23 are in Asia, 16 in North America and 15 in Europe.