Attending on behalf of ARPAS-UK Move 2020 in London. Take-aways: UAM, electric and hybrid VTOL bubbling and immature markets. Dubai most comprehensive and in-depth return of experience on autonomous mobility. UAM could benefit from valuable insight from the drone industry?
Move 2020 is about future mobility and attracts a wide range of Tier 1 international speakers. On the air side, it naturally focused on Urban Air Mobility. The number of eVTOL projects around the world has grown dramatically – 230 is the estimated number of ongoing projects! Many high profile electric or hybrid VTOL projects were presenting at Move 2020. The energy and dynamism are compelling. It is a bubbling industry, but it is immature and the natural selection process has yet to take place.
The UAM industry is first tackling the propulsion challenge and aircraft design. The challenges of autonomy for unmanned systems, the integration into the airspace through unmanned traffic management, but also the non-tech challenges of market demand qualification, engagement with stakeholders to confirm social acceptance… are down the road, the industry is not yet there yet.
Actually, the most comprehensive and mature presentation was delivered by a veteran “end-user” and not the UAM industry, namely by Professor Amair Saleem at RTA, the Roads and Transport Authority of Dubai where the target was set some 5 years ago that 25% of traffic should be driverless by 2030.
So, reflecting on the return of experience from the drone industry that I shared during the event as a director of ARPAS-UK, and during the panel discussion we held with Phil Binks of Altitude Angel, I believe we can be proud as an industry ecosystem that we have promoted a culture of professionalism and safety, weathered the Gatwick storm, opened a dialogue with other airspace users and stakeholders on the ground to facilitate social acceptance, and developed novel professional use of drones that supports both economic growth and social utility. Maybe UAM or EAM for electric air mobility players could benefit from valuable insight from the drone industry?