Key speakers at today’s opening sessions at NBAA forecast that electric power is set to become a key technology in the business aviation sector.
Daniel Elwell, the FAA’s acting administrator, warned: “What comes around the corner comes a lot quicker than it used to.”
And Eric Allison, head of aviation at Uber Elevate, says commercial operations could be happening by 2023 with demonstration flights as early as 2020.
Uber is at the show to meet operators and pilots as part of the company’s preparation for the launch of its new transportation initiative for urban transport. Launch cities will be Dallas and Los Angeles.
“We want to talk to people here about the opportunities that are there just down the road,” Allison says.
“Around the world traffic is not getting any better. By 2050 an extra 2.5 billion people will move to urban centres. It will compound the problem to an unimaginable level.”
“Today we have the helicopter but it is expensive and it is loud. Cost and noise make it not a viable solution for scaling an urban transportation network. We understand the issues and the two key technologies that we need to make it happen. The first is the multi-modal platform for a seamless single button-press trip and the second is the technology needed for electrical vertical take-off and landing. The same technology for drones and electric cars can be applied for a new type of aircraft. They will be simpler and much cheaper to operate through all-electric power trains.”
He adds: “You can do the same VTOL missions that helicopters are great at, but with low noise. Now we have an opportunity to build networks of real capable urban aviation vehicles.”