Airport Business

APR 2018

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AIRPORT GURU By Curt Castagna Are Airports Ready for Flying Cars? As city transportation systems are pushed to their limits, developers of urban air mobility projects are looking toward the sky for solutions. The current explosion of private companies investing in the space sector has changed the paradigm for space travel and exploration at a rapid pace. It has also provided an entrepreneurial model to infuse dollars into the emerging urban air mobility market, or UAM. In fact, NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) is expanding its research on how to integrate unmanned air vehicles into the national airspace to include new work on UAM. What, exactly, is UAM According to the NASA website, "UAM is a safe and efficient system for air passenger and cargo transportation within an urban area, inclusive of small package delivery and other urban Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) services, which supports a mix of onboard/ground-piloted and increasingly autonomous operations." In November, the space agency signed an agreement with Uber to develop an air traffic control system for the ride-share giant's flying car project, called Uber Elevate. While not investing in vehicle developers, Uber has unveiled its vision and an aggressive plan for the urban air transportation of the future where electric air taxis will maximize the use of vertical and horizontal airspace in crowded cities as part of an on-demand network. As technology propels aviation into the future, it may also change the paradigm for how airports conduct business, especially in terms of facilities, fees and services. While FBOs in the U.S. typically bundle their services, the expansion of general aviation aircraft operations to include electric air taxis may effect changes in the current business model, such as in the area of hangar and ramp, fuel and other facility requirements and pricing. Clearly, UAM raises serious questions about related economic, regulatory and social issues. TRANSPORT SOLUTION FOR TOMORROW Most recently, the venture capitalist arm of JetBlue Airways provided an undisclosed amount of funding to California-based Joby Aviation toward certifying its five-seat electric vertical-take-off-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Joining the ranks of companies such as Toyota and Intel, JetBlue's infusion brings the amount raised by the startup to an impressive $130 million. Also working to make UAM a reality, aerospace giants such as Boeing and Airbus are expanding their air mobility efforts, believing the solution to increased urbanization and congestion is found in the sky. For example, Airbus has embarked on several UAM projects, ranging from helicopter rides to shared flying vehicles to delivery drones. It has already carried out a successful trial of its helicopter ride-hailing service Voom in São Paulo, with the goal of easing traffic congestion by making helicopter travel more affordable and accessible. Airbus teams from Silicon Valley to Europe and Asia are working to create new vehicles such as CityAirbus, an eVTOL for up to four passengers and Vahana, designed for individual travelers or cargo transport. In Singapore, it's participating in the Skyways project to test a parcel transport system using autonomous drones. Could it be that, much sooner than later, 44 airportbusiness April 2018

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