s leader of the Urban Air Mobility Initiative supported by the European Commission, Airbus is uniting a broad range of public and private stakeholders to make the most out of ground and air transport solutions, city by city.
The world’s cities are growing in both size and number. By 2030, 60% of people will live in urban areas*, placing an increasing strain on our mobility infrastructure. As cities get ever larger, enabling efficient, sustainable, affordable and effective urban mobility will become a more pressing challenge.
Airbus believes bringing urban mobility into the third dimension – the airspace above our cities – will help overcome this challenge and transform our cities for the better.
For several years, the company has been working on a portfolio of urban air mobility-enabling innovations: development of two electric vertical take-off and landing demonstrators, Vahana and CityAirbus, is well underway, with first flights at the end of 2017 and 2018 respectively; on-demand helicopter booking platform Voom was recently launched in Brazil and Mexico; Skyways, unmanned delivery drones, will soon be trialled on the campus of the National University of Singapore; and Altiscope will support integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into airspace.
Perhaps greater than the technological hurdles, however, are the challenges of urban integration, public acceptance and air traffic management. Cross-sector collaboration is essential in overcoming these challenges, which is why Airbus is proud to lead the Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Initiative, which is supported by the European Commission and is part of the wider European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC).
The partnership brings together cities, industry, small businesses, banks, research institutions and other entities from across Europe. Its aim is to connect diverse stakeholders and find scalable and replicable solutions that will ultimately improve the quality of life for EU citizens, from better mobility to greener buildings.
Managing the partnership’s UAM Initiative is Vassilis Agouridas, Senior Manager Strategic Innovation at Airbus Helicopters. “The EIP-SCC is an open marketplace,” he explains. “Urban air mobility is bigger than any one company or companies. Our aim is to match cities across Europe with stakeholders interested in launching practical demonstration studies of solutions featuring UAM. As leader of the iInitiative, Airbus coordinates those involved and seeks to mobilize the entire ecosystem.”
The Initiative is multi-faceted and goes far beyond testing technology: projects will help develop solutions for urban integration and infrastructure, public acceptance and automated air traffic management. “Drones offer exciting opportunities for new services and business models, particularly in our cities,” says Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Mobility and Transport. “At the same time, we need to ensure that operations taking place above our heads are safe, secure, quiet and clean.”
A number of cities are currently joining the UAM Initiative, with Geneva, Hamburg, Ingolstadt, and Ghent among the first. “We welcome that leading cities such as these are joining the EIP-SCC,” says Nathalie Errard, Head of EU & NATO Affairs at Airbus in Brussels, who has been involved with the partnership since it started. “It shows the growing dynamics and consciousness that multimodal transportation is identified as an opportunity and challenge for Europe.”