Airbus sees broad opportunities for the development of urban air mobility operations in crowded Asia-Pacific cities.
Derek Cheng, head of Asia-Pacific Urban Air Mobility at Airbus, believes urban air transport will become less expensive and more accessible in the coming years, allowing for the “democratisation” of such services.
Airbus has already rolled out is Voom offering in two locations - Sao, Paulo Brazil and Mexico City, Mexico. Cheng says it hopes to roll out the system in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, providing urban mobility for the Pearl River Delta. The company has a memorandum of understanding with the Shenzhen Municipal Commerce Bureau.
"While they are a more of an economic agency, they are helping us with the promotion and acceleration of UAM [urban air mobility] in Shenzhen, as well as creating a local ecosystem. This slides in quite nicely with what they want to do in the greater bay area for connectivity, where they can link up 11 cities in the region."
Voom is an on-demand helicopter booking platform developed by Airbus’s Silicon Valley facility A^3.
Cheng says that Voom is “platform agnostic” in regard to the type of helicopter it uses.
Cheng spoke with FlightGlobal at the Rotorcraft Asia show in Singapore.
Cheng sees eVTOL aircraft playing a complementary role to conventional helicopters, as the industry evolves to respond to rapid urbanisation. “While traditional helicopters will continue to play a key role supporting a variety of missions and transportation needs, we see eVTOLs fitting well into the urban environment as cities open up for urban air mobility.”
Airbus already has programmes in the Asia-Pacific aimed at establishing best practice for unmanned and autonomous systems.
It’s Skyways parcel delivery experiment in Singapore has completed flight tests at a local university, and the company is also working on ship-to-shore applications. This could include sending a UAV to a moving ship and to collect or deliver documents. This is especially useful for Singapore as it is among the world’s busiest ports.
Separately, Airbus is preparing for a first flight of its CityAirbus eVTOL aircraft.
Cheng adds that it’s key for manufacturers to work with regulators regarding the many hurdles around the certification and operation of urban mobility vehicles.
He contends that apart from the aviation element, a great deal of effort will need to go to develop ground infrastructure, maintenance, as well as procedures and infrastructure around the charging and swapping of batteries.
Clarification: Story revised with clarified remark from Cheng regarding the different missions of eVTOL and conventional helicopters.