Advanced Air Mobility Myths
Myth No.1 : #advancedairmobility is just #evtol aircraft and air services
“Advanced Aerial Mobility (AAM) is a future transport, enabled by electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft flying from existing airports, rural locations, and new inner-city bases” (Vertical Aerospace whitepaper).
According to NASA, Advanced Air Mobility is the “emerging aviation markets to safely develop an air transportation system that moves people and cargo between places previously not served or underserved by aviation – local, regional, intraregional, urban – using revolutionary new aircraft that are only just now becoming possible. AAM includes NASA’s work on Urban Air Mobility, and will provide substantial benefit to U.S. industry and the public.”
Peter Shannon introduced the term Advance Aerial Mobility in 2019 as “how electric propulsion and automation enable new forms of flight. Advanced aerial mobility is about accessing vertical space in a way that we could not do before and ultimately, it’s about vastly increasing the occasions and use cases across the economy upon which we employ flight to move more efficiently and drive productivity”
AAM is not just eVTOL aircraft , which is the least efficient form of electric aircraft, and cannot compete with a eCTOL aircraft like the Eviation Aircraft Alice or Tecnam Aircraft PVolt on efficiency, payload, range and speed.
To be fair the SikorskyBoeing Defiant-X (lift+cruise compound helicopter) and Bell Flight V-280 Valor (tilt rotor) should technically also qualify as AAM aircraft with their autonomous flight capability, despite still being powered by turbine engines.
Myth No.2 -“flying electric ‘air taxis’ could help fix urban transportation?”
While #urbanairmobility has since 1953 been a part of any urban mobility mix and while most flights are inter-airport or airport-citycentre flights, #UAM can play a role in supplementing other mid-mile transport options like rail and bus services.
One needs to note that a $4 million dollar mid-mile eVTOL aircraft cannot compete with a door to door autonomous $25k Tesla “Model 2” on cost per mile. While first & last mile transport to and from a vertipad/vertiport can reduce any time advantage depending on the vertiport(s) location.
In terms of impact it would take 250 four pax eVTOLs to move the same number of people as a New York Subway train or 850 to move the same number as a Guangzhou Metro No.13 line train.
Myth No.3 – airtaxis and eVTOLs are synonymous?
The reality is that the biggest users of VTOL are the business aviation, emergency services, law enforcement and the military, with “airtaxis”, both airshuttles and private, making up a small percentage of flight hours by helicopters. While we will see an increase in passenger airtravel by VTOL with the type certification of eVTOL aircraft, many civilian operators will be looking at eVTOLs to replace helicopters due for replacement.
The term airtaxi is also far older than commercial VTOLs and refers to any air charter, including (e)CTOL aircraft.
Myth No. 4 – pure battery electric aircraft don’t have enough range to be useful.
Do airlines buy an Airbus A321XLR for the Boston – New York or LA – SF routes?
So why do you a 500 mile range to connect Tampa and Orlando? Or JFK and Manhattan?
Myth No.5 – #ondemand #airtaxis are new?
While the first scheduled air shuttle service was in 1914 between St Petersburg and Tampa in Florida, the first airtaxis were World War 1 surplus aircraft in 1919.
The first helicopter to be certified by the CAA (Federal Aviation Administration’s predecessor), the 1946 Bell 47, ushered in the era of on-demand VTOL air taxis (better known as helicopter air charters) in the 1950s
Myth No. 6 #airportshuttles between city centres and airports is the only real usecase for passenger #urbanairmobility?
While this has been the main usecase for passenger #uam since July 1953 when New York Airways flew the first scheduled flight, the real value of a midmile service like urban #airtaxis and #airshuttles is supplementing other midmile rail and bus public transportations by providing services on routes where passenger numbers don’t justify building or upgrading existing rail a road infrastructure.
Myth No.7 – #helicopters can’t be #eVTOL aircraft.
Considering that the official electric #VTOL distance record of 30 nm is held by the Tier 1 Engineering electric R44 (Joby’s 154 mile distance is still unofficial), an electric helicopter is a much an eVTOL as any other electric VTOL aircraft.
Myth No. 8 – #urbanairmobility is new?
The first cargo UAM flights were conducted in Philadelphia by the US Postal Service in July 1939 using a Pitcairn Autogyro.
The recorded passenger UAM service was provided in July 1953 between Idelwild (JFK) Airport and Manhattan.
In the 1960s LA, NY and SF all had “flying bus” UAM services using big Boeing Vertol 107 tandem helicopters and Sikorsky S-61 helicopters.
Switching from turbine engines to electric motors or even autonomous does not make UAM new.
Myth No.9 – #electricaircraft are slow? Myth busted!
Rolls-Royce ACCEL “Spirit of Innovation” set new world record for electric flight at 300knots / 345mph / 556km/h over a 3km course.
Myth No.10 – eVTOL will transform aviation?
It’s electric aircraft in general and eCTOL, that will transform aviation, not a necessary, but niche, segment like eVTOL.
Myth No.11 – multicopters are a different class of transportation to helicopters?
Multicopters like helicopters and tandem helicopter are rotorcraft, but current designs cannot do an autorotation landing like a helicopter.
The main usecase for UAM is airport citycenter air shuttles / taxis and while electric multicopter developers are selling an innercity short hop usecase to compensate for a lack of range, they are tying to compete with door to door cycling or walking as well as other midmile options like subway trains and trams.
Myth No. 12 – No.12 – eVTOL passenger multicopters are 8x cheaper than helicopters.
Myth No. 13 – An eVTOL is more energy efficient than an electric vehicle?
Considering that the 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD EPA rating gives a range of 353 miles (568 km)
energy consumption (including charging losses) and the following wh per mile ratings:
combined: 134 MPGe – 251 Wh/mi (156 Wh/km)
city: 141 MPGe – 239 Wh/mi (149 Wh/km)
highway: 127 MPGe – 265 Wh/mi (165 Wh/km)
For 3 passengers in an Uber Model 3 in a city that equated to 80 wh per passenger mile.
While Joby Aviation has not publicly stated the battery size, estimates range from 200 to 300kwh, which for a published range of 150 miles equates to 1333 to 2000 wh per mile or 333 to 500 wh per passenger mile.
The EHang (NASDAQ: EH) autonomous EH216’s 17kwh battery allows for a 22 mile range which equates to 772wh per mile or 382 wh per passenger mile.
The Volocopter GmbH VoloCity’s estimated 48 kwh battery for 22 miles of range is 2181 wh per mile / passenger mile.
Written by Gary Vermaak
Advanced Air Mobility Myths