CAMI Gives Lift to UAM
If you’ve been paying attention, you know a new industry is taking shape. Sooner than most people realize, there are going to be “flying cars,” AKA eVTOLs (electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft), for shared and personal intra- and inter-urban transportation and emergency services.
To facilitate the integration of the third dimension into personal transportation, the Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI) was formed. At aviation industry meetings, members came to realize the technology for urban air mobility was advancing more rapidly than the standards and the path to certification for eVTOLs. Looming larger still was the question of whether the public was ready to accept widespread use of new types of aircraft as taxis, shuttles, and local and regional transportation.
In addition to standards and acceptance, the issues necessary to develop UAM (Urban Air Mobility) are many, including:
- state and local decision-makers’ understanding of the benefits of UAM to their jurisdictions
- the variations in and lack of laws and regulations to govern UAM
- impact on existing transportations systems
- availability of infrastructure
- electric grid capacity to support UAM fleets
- socioeconomic impacts of UAM
In the fall of 2019, Yolanka Wulff and Anna Dietrich, both aviation industry consultants, floated the notion of creating a standalone organization to address these issues and to create a bridge between the UAM industry and the communities where UAM will be implemented.
The result is CAMI, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which was founded with the support of just over a dozen enterprises, including eVTOL manufacturers, aviation-oriented organizations such as the Vertical Flight Society and the NBAA, and agencies such as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Wulff and Dietrich share duties as the organization’s co-executive directors. Memberships range from $2,500 to $50,000 annually.
As technologies such as propulsion electrification, 5G communications, and autonomous systems reshape air travel, the options for moving people and goods increase. Integrating the third dimension into existing urban transportation systems can make travel safer, quieter, more ecofriendly, and less expensive.
CAMI anticipates UAM will find its place in city centers, adjacent to airports, in rural areas, in travel from city to city, as well as from a city to its suburbs. Whether air taxis, shuttles, air metro or emergency services, UAM will increase access points to fast, economical air transportation for, ultimately, tens of millions of people worldwide.
Research by Morgan Stanley predicts UAM will be a US$1.5 trillion industry by 2040. Just a few years ago, only 12 companies were known to be developing eVTOLs. By 2020, the number has soared to 250.
Initially on the radar of aviation giants, such as Boeing and Airbus, auto manufacturers such as Hyundai, Toyota, and Tesla, are now looking skyward for new growth opportunities as well.
Since people are generally willing to commute up to about 60 minutes per day, the potential range for commuting could increase from 60 miles to 200 miles with the integration of eVTOLs. UAM can also connect “transportation deserts” while decreasing burdens on ground infrastructure.
Challenges remain, such as technology maturation, regulatory evolution, infrastructure construction, and air traffic management modernization. Perhaps the biggest challenge is public acceptance. The industry must address safety, societal benefits, and the impact of the noise created by UAM vehicles. CAMI seeks to help the industry adopt the right approach to issues surrounding noise by giving communities the tools and information they need to weigh the impact against the value UAM can provide.
Political support will be key to full adoption of UAM. Are cities incorporating plans for UAM? Do they have the infrastructure and ground support necessary for safe, sustainable UAM? Regulators at the local, state, and federal levels, insurers, business owners, and real estate developers are all part of the team of providers UAM needs to succeed.
Current CAMI members include: Bell, Black & Veatch, Blade, the Choctaw Nation, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Joby Aviation, Jump Aero, Karem Aircraft, massDOT, National Business Aviation Association, Raytheon, SAE International, Sebring, Vertical Flight Society, and the Unmanned Safety Institute.
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