With more than 200 companies actively involved in space, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is one of the hot topics at EBACE 2022, and aspects of the topic were discussed at a press conference on Tuesday. Presenting the event, NBAA President and Executive Director Ed Bolen emphasized, “Business aviation has always been based on air mobility on demand. It brings people to where they need to be and when they need to get there. ”Now the business is at the dawn of a new era in which“ distributed electric propulsion is key ”.
Moderated by journalist Lisa Stark, the panel, consisting of Christian Bauer (Volocopter), Sebastien Borel (Lilium), Diana Cooper (Supernal), Christian Mundigler (FACC) and Verity Richardson (Vertical Aerospace), spoke on some important issues, in particular certification, safety and public acceptance of these new modes of transport and their use in the world of tomorrow.
As far as certification is concerned, the process is much clearer now than when vehicle development began. The certification path – at least in Europe – is now in place, giving developers a much better idea of what they need to achieve. The aim is to certify aircraft according to similar standards as commercial aircraft, which facilitates global certification. In addition, these standards may provide a plan for the electrification of aviation outside the AAM sector.
Most vehicles use multiple rotors for vertical lifting, which by its very nature greatly increases redundancy. A volocopter, for example, has 30 motors and 10 battery packs, and individual or minor failures do not necessarily affect safety. The same is true for autonomous vehicle control systems, which typically take hints from a number of satellite sources and maintain uninterrupted connections to the ground.
Public acceptance of these vehicles is already encouraging, but will be strengthened by high certification standards and can be enhanced by further collaboration with potential users, highlighted by demonstrating safety in the event of component failures.
While these views attracted mostly general consensus in the panel, the issue of autonomy compared to piloted operation was not, at least in the initial operations. Difficulties in introducing new technology and with public acceptance have led many to believe that pilots are needed first. However, from the very beginning, there was some enthusiasm for autonomous operations, with suggestions to achieve autonomous flying before fully autonomous driving.
The panel presented a variety of planned operations, from flying in the city center to reduce congestion to more regional operations that would allow for more interconnected areas not covered by land traffic. It was pointed out that the installation of the AAM solution has a much smaller environmental footprint than, say, the new railway infrastructure.
There is also a desire to use these new vehicles to extend mobility to economically disadvantaged communities and also to make them more accessible to people with disabilities than current transport.
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