The biggest ten days ever for Advanced / Urban Air Mobility

In just a few days at the end of September 2020 the focus of the advanced air mobility market moved from being a potential multi-billion dollar passenger-carrying eVTOL urban air mobility (UAM) sector to an actual multi-billion dollar air freight sector.

In the space of just a few days:

  • FedEx CEO Fred Smith announced that the company is working with Reliable Robotics to use small, fully automated, self-flying cargo planes to deliver cargo to remote areas.

  • Riyadh-based ADMC signed a USD600 million deal for 102 Sabrewing heavylift cargo UAS

  • EHang Holdings Limited launched the logistics version of its flagship product EHang 216 - the "EHang 216L", for short-to-medium-haul air logistics in both urban and rural areas

  • And Drone Delivery Canada (DDC) announced a Letter of Intent (LOI), with Astral Aerial Solutions based in Kenya, to use big drones and partner with the local regulator (Kenya Civil Aviation Authority) to identify and analyse market opportunities in the country for DDC's drone delivery solutions.

This is the first stage in the crawl-walk-run evolution of the AAM and UAM sectors. The aviation industry has always embraced new technologies and operating models but history suggests this is most successfully done in stages, in sequence, rather than all at the same time.

New airframes, engines, operating concepts, traffic management systems, landing and take-off infrastructures, business models need to be slowly introduced into existing frameworks - if only to ensure there are no surprises for regulators, who hate surprises.

So it was inevitable that the first iteration of AAM / UAM was going to be freight-carrying conventional airframes flying without on-board pilots from existing airports in airspace managed by legacy ATM systems.

What was not inevitable, however, was that it should happen in so many different places in the world, with so much money involved and so soon.


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