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16 Top Concerns About Urban Air Mobility

If Drones Are to Fulfill Their Many Promises, Some Concerns Need to Be Addressed First

exterior photo of The Technical University of Catalonia, Spain
The Technical University of Catalonia, Spain is leading the way toward gaining society’s acceptance of UAVs.

What are the top social barriers that might impede the widespread adoption of urban air mobility (UAM) worldwide? That is the question that researchers from the Technical University of Catalonia, the HEMAV Foundation, and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol) wanted to know. Ender Çetin, Alicia Cano Hento, Robin Deransy, Sergi Tres, and Dr. Cristina Barrado recently published the results of their study on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) acceptance in the academic journal, Drones.

Public Acceptance of Urban Air Mobility: What’s It Going to Take?

Implementing Mitigations for Improving Societal Acceptance of Urban Air Mobility was based on reviews of surveys conducted from 2015-2021. The study noted a substantial increase in interest in passenger drones beginning in 2018, and a decrease in curiosity about surveillance drones. The authors posit this shift in public attitudes may explain why privacy has become less- concerning, while noise and environmental issues have garnered more interest. As drones move closer to certification, they also move closer to becoming part of citizens’ everyday lives.

Researchers found that when it came to future urban air mobility, people wanted:

  1. To limit hovering drones due to noise.
  2.  Direct flight routes to minimize flight time.
  3. Alternate routes to spread noise over different geographic areas.
  4. Minimum altitude limits due to noise and privacy issues.
  5. Speed limits on flight paths to minimize noise and protect the environment.
  6. No-fly zones for drones.
  7. A review of urban land use below flights because of environmental, safety, privacy, security, and noise concerns.
  8. Engagement of general aviation pilots.
  9. Public involvement regarding planned drone technology and operations.
  10. An explanation of the environmental benefits of UAVs to help with transparency and economic concerns.
  11. A demonstration of the mobility and economic benefits of UAM.
  12. Eco-friendly drones (made with recycled parts, for example).
  13. Mitigation of bird encounters.
  14. Measurement of noise across altitudes and regions.
  15. Assurance that electronics on UAVs protect privacy.
  16. Limited types and positions of cameras due to privacy concerns.

The Passenger Paradox

Some of the apprehensions the study revealed were self-contradictory. Passengers want vertiports located near their work or homes for quick, easy access. Yet, few people want vertiports in, or near, their neighborhoods where air traffic noise could be a nuisance or diminish property values.

The widespread adoption of urban air mobility worldwide will require compromise. Somehow, the technical challenges currently being addressed by the hundreds of eVTOL and hybrid aircraft developers listed by the Vertical Flight Society are beginning to seem relatively surmountable by comparison.

Dave Clarke

Dave Clarke is a California-based writer who is fascinated by the way technology changes our lives.