Traffic congestion or jam – the familiar words which we don’t actually like yet we get stuck into it regularly as human mobility in urban areas continue to get worse as time goes by. Technical advancements seem to pave the way to overcome this hurdle and humans have come a long way from bullock cart to autonomous car. Yet, the road traffic woes continued to be murkier amid population influx in urban areas. “Not only have cities become more densely populated in recent decades, they have also become increasingly centralized as more people travel to, from and around a central point,” says Vincent Loubiere - Airbus’ Director of City Integration and Infrastructure Development for UAM. As of 2018 end, European Union (EU) traffic congestion cost nearly 120 billion USD per year. In the United States, figures stand worse than EU and if current trends of traffic congestion continues with no significant action taken in near future, then it would cost the United States over 290 billion by 2030. Moreover, idling engines account for heavy emission and in developed countries such as United States, France, Germany and United Kingdom, there would be total of about 18 million tons of carbon emission by 2030. So, what’s the solution? If you can’t beat the traffic, go above it- really? Yes, urban air mobility (UAM) services are making things easier and travel within cities via air is no more dreams but a reality. UAM is an on-demand air mobility service to carry passengers or cargo in urban areas typically without a pilot.
As urban air mobility (UAM) keeps on getting traction, various stakeholders are flexing their muscles to establish their business presence in global arena. Companies such as Airbus, Bell helicopters, Boeing, Uber and few startups which include Joby, Kitty Hawk’s Cora and Terrafugia are working with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the United States’ Department of Transportation to implement UAM system at its optimum. Airbus launched Voom, the world's premier on-demand helicopter booking platform in 2017 which has been a success story since then. It has saved over 10,300 hours of urban commuters in its first year itself where over half of the flyers were first timers. Honeywell is in collaboration with its Uber’s vehicle development partners Pipistrel, to integrate its avionics, flight controls, situational awareness and connectivity into future Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) air vehicle. Also, Volocopter German UAM service Provider has signed an agreement with Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in 2017 to carry out testing of its two-seat, 18-rotor electric Autonomous Air Taxi in Dubai.
As sky has the limit, UAM stakeholders seem to challenge the traditional way of commuting as they gather all together in the United States in 2020 to partake into UAM grand challenge organized by NASA. NASA has planned to host UAM ecosystem where companies will be focusing on accessing safety features in implementation process and challenges in integration of services within pertinent environment. NASA is quite ambitious about UAM grand challenge and seeking the participation from industry leaders across the board to accomplish safe operations of commercial flying vehicles.