URBAN AIR MOBILITY, GERMANY, A SKY AHEAD
The New Frontier has a name, Urban air mobility (UAM), the so called 3rd dimension. The conquest to this very promising global market has already started. What we already know is that this battle for the airspace and its alternate fast traffic lanes requires a complexecosystem partnering, to face the many challenges ahead.
Creating viable and efficient mobility system including its third dimension part, is one of the key challenges the growing urban areas and its so called SmartCities, will have to master. Roland Berger, in one of its recent studies identified more than 100 projects worldwide, of which almost half are being conducted in Europe.
After EU considers that traffic congestion currently amounts to €100 billion a year, its comission is looking for solutions and therefore decide to support the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC), an initiative led by Airbus whose partners include Eurocontrol and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The Group aims to contribute to bringing urban mobility into the third dimension – the airspace with flying cars- and to bringing together cities, citizens, businesses and other stakeholders in order to accelerate practical application studies and their consequent implementation.
The expectation from this multi-stakeholder approach of the relevant communities is to jointly work around city demonstration projects on accelerating all together UAM market update, increasing public acceptance, and sharing innovative ideas.These leading projects will pave the way for the future of mobility offering solutions for all mods of Air Mobility( at intra-city and inter-city level), and attract the necessary funds. It will fuel as well the definition of a deployment strategy and roadmap for the next generation urban mobility featuring the air dimension. The winners in this exciting new market will be the ones who approach its complex, interdisciplinary needs in close collaboration. Manufacturers, operators, infrastructure providers and regulatory authorities need to develop a kind of Urban Air Mobility eco-system, as "going it alone" will not be an option for any of the players.
As of today 12 demonstrator projects have been selected, among them 2 cross borders ones. Five German regions have already joined the European Urban Air Mobility Initiative and will become pilot regions for innovative Air Mobility. Therefore 42% of all European projects, and both cross borders ones, are originating from Germany: among them are Aachen, Hamburg, Ingolstadt, the region of Northern Hesse and the Enschede-Münsterborder region.
The local initiatives have received a strong support from the federal government driven by the Minister of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, Andreas Scheuer, including new financial assistance for local authorities, start-ups and aviation actors, totalling 15 million euros and has a duration of four years. Additionnally, fast-track projects with receive up to 500,000 euros each and studies, up to 100,000 euros each.
"Germany is a pioneering country in aviation. Drones and air taxis are now part of it".
This German responsability has been endorsed by EU as it requires its organizations to manage the legislative challenges, should they concern airworthiness regulations, or cross border issues that may arise.
The Bavarian town of Ingolstadt, home to industrial giants such as Audiand Airbus, recently joined the EU Urban Air Mobility Initiative with a pilot scheme for testing air taxis. As a result, the city of Ingolstadt with the advantage of its central location, is actively engaging to define an innovative Urban Mobility model featuring a diversity of air taxi applications and operations. In the model phase, air taxis and their benefits to citizens will be evaluated in the areas of passenger transport, rescue services and public security. Ingolstadt is increasingly noted at all levels, as the European leading project and center for autonomous and digital mobility, involving local and federal political authorities as well as European ones, global industry players, startups and academic entities. The EU, as well as the State of Bavaria and the German government have given Ingolstadt the task to clarify a use case and, from this use case, to list the legislative, technical and infrastructural clarifications needed to derive possible solutions.
So does the City of Hamburg which sees the development of Urban Air Mobility and the civilian use of drones as a significant move to expand its activities. The initiative benefits from a politically aligned support from the city, the "Land" and Country. The “Windrove 2.0” programme, as it was initially called when launched in 2017, built on the network for promoting drone Activities in Metropolitan Regions. Within the Hamburg Aviation Cluster and the ZAL Centre of Applied Aeronautical Research. The aim now is to continue the successful networking and open up potential application scenarios for Urban Air Mobility in Hamburg. Hamburg State, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and ZAL will be providing almost EUR 850,000 to fund project management between now and 2022.
Another selected region, the Euregio, a cross border region around Twente and bordering parts of Niedersachsen and Münster in Nordrhein-Westfalia, becomes the first UAM Initiative demonstration project featuring crossborder regional cooperation between two European countries. The intended cooperation aims to improve public safety in the border area by using innovative air mobility. In a first phase, use cases include observation and signalling drones for example in wild fires. In a later phase, drones that can carry people, to bring a trauma doctor to the scene. “The first responders in the Euregio are already working together and air mobility can improve their capacity to respond in emergency situations.”
The third phase of the EIP-SCC program which will be deployed throughout 2019, and is meant to run and conclude demonstration projects across cities/regions, and then derive lessons learnt from each demonstration project and make recommendations for a UAM deployment strategy and roadmap. The success of the development of the EU-supported "Urban Air Mobility Initiative" relies on targeted partnerships which may lead to a revolution in mobility.
Among the global industrial partners, AUDI with this project, intends to bring betterment on the Headquarter and main industrial base area where it has produced cars for the last 70 years and acquired a recognized brand reputation among the luxury car global manufacturers. It reinforces its branding, placing it into the future of Mobility and benefiting from the ultimate car industry innovation such as autonomy and electrical batteries. So it sounded natural for this big global player to jump into this decisive and challenging project. The early partnership initiated with ITALDESIGN and Airbus reinforces this partnership.
Indeed Airbus, the European group and local industrial player as well, seems to have chosen Germany as the center of its newly created Air Mobility business unit, which first tempted a partnership in the Silicon Valley with Unicorn Uber that failed, decided to take the leadership for the Mobility of the future and created its own network. It sounds a bit like a European answer or alternative to Uber and its Elevate program. But it sure is fully compliant with the strong DNA of the global aeronautical and aerospace company. Two of its prototypes, Pop Up, developed with AUDI and ITALDESIGN, and City Airbusdeveloped in cooperation with SIEMENS, the leader in electric propulsion of flying machines are currently tested in Bavaria.
This program is aimed at promoting startup projects as well, and Lilium, the local Airtaxi startup is one of the top 10 flying cars project in the world, and one of the best-funded with a total of $100m including funds from the Chinese digital giant Tencent. Lilium plans to build a Flying Car and the related Flying Taxi Service that will be available in cities around the world, and operational in 2025.
Another startup is Volocopter, which may let us think of a coming supremacy of the "made in Germany" Flying Cars just as the in the car industry some decades ago. Backed by Daimler and Intel and appearing in Allianz and Emirates commercial ads, Volocopter is currently after a 100M$ funding program. It announced partnership with Singapour and Dubaï to test its operational program which include as well Voloport, the infrastructure the cities will need to land those Flying Cars.
Urban air mobility will not replace any part of the existing mobility landscape. But it will become a pivotal element of future mobility in and around major cities. By being the pioneer cities to promote air mobility model and its implementation there is no doubt they will be the best placed to attract the massive fundings necessary and benefit from them together with their partners, whatever their size, large global companies such as Audi, Airbus and Siemens or the smaller ones such as startups Volocopter, Lilium.
Germany is certainly already leading in the Air Mobility race and European skies will certainly soon be clouded with Air Vehicles with a "made in Germany" sign painted on its wings or rotors, guided by a UTM system with a Bavarian accent and landing in Vertiport.