For years, we have been hearing that the launch of unmanned air taxis, the commercial use of prototypes, is imminent. Yet why no permits have yet been issued for passenger transport, what is holding it back?
Although unmanned aerial vehicle technology has been ready for live deployment for some time, regulatory-licensing processes are still in full swing worldwide. Needless to say, caution is justified by maximum safety preparedness: that is, the extent and number of tests required.
The background was illuminated by Lift Aircraft’s chief engineer, Balázs Kerülő, at the recent Smart 2020 conference. (Lift Aircraft is an American company, but a Hungarian engineering team forms the development base.)
As is well known, unmanned air passenger transport is already technologically feasible, socially timely, and ready for it in many countries, while along with urban traffic, the social demand for innovative solutions is growing. Composite material structures have also reached a level that is stronger than steel, while tenths and twenties are so heavy, and the technological leap is also evidenced by the fact that these “drones” are already flown by computers.
It is no coincidence that 200 vehicles / initiatives have been registered so far in the eVTOL category, which can be surprisingly large, but it is still questionable how many and when they can obtain an operating license.
It currently has more smoke than flame: the unmanned air taxi industry is still there with a lot of enthusiasm and although most people think it is already in full swing, they barely even fly with such a device in test mode. But why are they delaying licensing, why aren’t any of them on the market yet?
The answer to this is the immature regulatory environment, as well as the fact that there are no serious user statistics for electric motors, so that reliable risk assessments can be made based on it. Here, it is not permissible for something to fail in the air and not to operate continuously and reliably from take-off to landing, as the vehicle cannot just stand aside in the air.
In researching the underlying causes, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about business use, which must meet the certification requirements that the authorities produce on the basis of safety statistics, and which would require a lot of flights. In other words, this would require an already operational business use – so the circle is a closed actor Stakeholders are somewhat opposed to their different goals. The specialist would see the solution in the authority to create a certification base on which to develop without safety and flight statistics.
Finally, let’s look at the high value-added smart competencies that the industry needs to go beyond the dream category to a working reality: sensorics, image recognition, artificial intelligence, reliable data networks, simulation knowledge, conceptual user interface development (e.g. communication, UI, UX aspects).