The concept of urban air mobility (UAM) is not a new one. One of the hallmarks of science fiction, from The Jetsons to Star Wars, is the flying car. The ability to expand two-dimensional roads into the third dimension is becoming increasingly necessary as big cities and metropolises experience growing congestion. However, UAM vehicles are no longer science fiction. While the field is still young and faces challenges to feasibility and profitability, functional UAM vehicles exist today.
UAM Vehicles of Today
Many different companies are in the development stage of creating their UAM vehicles. However, several others already have prototypes in the air. Airbus, Kitty Hawk, Lilium, and Velocopter are currently testing early versions of their electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles.
Airbus is currently developing two different UAM offerings. The Airbus A3 Vahana is a single-seater, self-piloted UAM vehicle undergoing testing in the Pacific Northwest. The Vahana prototype has a range of 31 miles and has completed more than 114 test flights.
The CityAirbus (pictured above) is a four-seater all-electric UAM vehicle prototype. It can fly at 75 miles per hour for up to 15 minutes. Findings from the tests of the Vahana and the CityAirbus will be used as the input to the next stage of Airbus UAM vehicle development.
Kitty Hawk is currently pursuing three electric vehicle designs, although only two of them are intended as UAM vehicles. The Cora, being developed in partnership with Boeing, is designed to be a two-seater vehicle that flies on autopilot under the oversight of a remote human pilot. It is intended to be summed via an app, is fully electric, and has a maximum range of 62 miles.
The Kitty Hawk Heaviside (pictured above) is a single-seater air taxi that, to date, has only been operated by a remote pilot. It has a maximum range of 100 miles and is designed to be 100x quieter than a helicopter.
The Lilium Jet is advertised as the world’s first five-seater, fully-electric takeoff and landing jet. On May 16, 2019, Lilium announced that they had successfully performed a fully unmoored and unmanned test flight of their full-scale production model. The Lilium Jet has 36 different engines organized on 12 different flaps. Each flap can move independently of the others, and each engine is fully independent as well, making the Jet extremely safe.
The Lilium Jet has undergone more than 100 different tests and has demonstrated the ability to fly at over 52 miles per hour with performance similar to that of an electric car. The top speed of the aircraft is 186 mph, and it has a range of 186 miles.
Volocopter’s 18-rotor UAM vehicle is essentially a two-seater drone that can be piloted or fly autonomously. The 2X vehicle has a maximum flight speed of 68 mph and can cover up to 17 miles during its maximum 30-minute flight time. At the destination, the batteries of the 2X can be automatically swapped by robots, allowing it to take off again almost immediately.
The Future of UAM
The UAM vehicles that exist today are only the first in a growing market. The field of UAM is in its infancy, and events like the Uber Elevate Summit and the NASA UAM Grand Challenge are efforts to make UAM a reality. As the market for UAM expands and the technology becomes more mature, additional companies will undoubtedly enter the field as well. We’re here to help UAM innovators. Contact us today to learn more.