- Second Century
- Issue #1: Aviation's new kid on the block
Issue #1: Aviation's new kid on the block
👩✈️On the menu
Welcome to the first issue of the Airline Food for Thought newsletter! This issue discusses one of the biggest developments in aviation at the moment: Urban Air Mobility. This topic will be served to you in two courses:
Main course: (Urban Air) Mobility for the masses. About why you'll be flying instead of riding a taxi sooner than you think.
Desert: A video on what it will take to make Urban Air Mobility a reality.
🍲 Main course
(Urban Air) Mobility for the masses
Urban Air Mobility (UAM) seems to be the new kid on the block when it comes to future aviation developments. It is a new type of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft built for short and quick flights to difficult to reach places.
And you’ll probably think: a VTOL for short quick trips sounds a lot like a helicopter. Well, me too.
Helicopters have been around for as long as people have been wanting to soar the skies. Even Leonardo da Vinci made a sketch of a helicopter avant la lettre as early as the 15th century.
Even though helicopters are popular among armed forces and emergency services worldwide, limited is their succes among commercial services. Of all the people who have ever flown in an airplane, 99% of them have never flown in a helicopter.
And why is that?
Besides their operational benefits, helicopters have a few downsides:
They are loud because a large engine driven rotor needs to lift the full weight of the helicopter. Airplanes use the aerodynamic forces generated by their horizontal speed while taking off. Helicopters only have engine power (and noise) to get them off the ground. Which makes them an unpleasant mode of transportation in crowded areas.
They are expensive, even more than airplanes. Renting a four-seater airplane will cost you about €150-€200 per hour. Doing the same with a helicopter can easily cost you more than a €1000. Burning a lot of extra fuel to compensate for the aerodynamic disadvantage mentioned before.
But all this is about to change…
…and electrification is the reason why.
The new UAM-aircraft have the same operational benefits as a regular helicopter. They don’t need a long runway to take-off or land and they can hover above an object or person.
And yet, they don’t have the earlier mentioned downsides:
They make a lot less noise because their rotors can be a lot smaller. Whereas a helicopter has one big rotor and one big engine for generating lift, UAM-aircraft can have several smaller ones. This is because electrical motors can be as small as the one in your electrical toothbrush. Making it possible to propel the aircraft by using several smaller motors with smaller rotors. Thereby reducing the amount of noise. The small electrical motors can tilt so that they can be adjusted for optimal vertical speed or horizontal speed.
They are a cheaper than helicopters. The electricity they run on is cheaper per flight than fossil fuels, lowering the operational costs. The fact that electrical engines are better at the torque-heavy vertical operations than traditional engines fuels this advantage even more. Also the small electrical engines will require less maintenance than the kerosine driven alternatives, lowering the total cost of ownership.
Some experts say that in the future a trip from a large airport to a vertiport downtown (yes that’s what they call UAM-airports) will cost you about €60. Making it a serious rival for taxi's on the ground.If that last bit is true, only time will tell. The fact is that after 500 years of imagining, building and flying VTOL-aircraft, electrification will make it move more people than ever before. And the chance that you’ll be riding one of them in the future is bigger than ever.
The future looks bright, but we're not there yet 🛸
Check out this video if you want to know more about the opportunities of UAM and the challenges that still lay ahead. It also gives an introduction into autonomous UAM. A good topic for a future newsletter!
Thank you for getting all the way down to the end of the very first issue of Airline Food for Thought! If you have any questions or suggestions you can contact me via [email protected] or send me a message via LinkedIn.For more about me, visit giel.ioIf you liked what you just read and don't want to miss any upcoming newsletters, click the button to subscribe.