When people speak of the future of mobility, most people likely think of ground-based transportation, like self-driving cars, e-bikes, and e-scooters, etc. Some companies are eager to add another layer to the e-mobility market: urban air mobility (UAM).
However, just because some companies are developing so-called flying cars doesn’t mean they’re ready for the roads and/or skies. Flying cars still face many hurdles. Chief among which is battery capacity, according to a report in SAE Mobilus.
In summary of a panel discussion entitled “Flying Cars – Will You Have One In Your Garage?” SAE Mobilus concluded that battery technology — specifically energy density — is the biggest barrier to UAM becoming commonplace and revolutionizing how we move around. That’s because experts estimate around 30% of a UAM vehicle’s weight would need to be dedicated to batteries.
The report also cites complexity of software and its validation and certification as well as social acceptance in relation to UAM noise and safety as additional obstacles UAM companies must overcome. Meanwhile, companies are cautious that UAM vehicles don’t become perceived as toys for the rich and famous.
Despite these concerns, SAE Mobilus flippantly concludes that UAM is inevitable and that these problems will “be solved soon.”
Pardon my skepticism, but I am not so sure.
Yes, UAM brands think they can hide the noise caused by the propellers of drone-like personal aerial machines in the white noise of an urban skyport. And they might be right. So that issue might be more easily resolved.
In terms of software certification and public acceptance, given the recent issues facing Boeing and its 737 MAX jets, I am not so sure regulators are going to be super eager to green-light what are essentially tiny helicopters or giant drones. What’s more, I am even less convinced the public will view the UAM as safe.
That said, I do realize I might sound like critics who questioned the viability of air travel in the early Twentieth Century. So, I am prepared to eat my words. Still, though, I am not sure UAM is going to be as easy to implement or appealing to would-be customers as some industry insiders seem to believe.