Urban Air Mobility: Summary of 2019 NBAA

The 2019 conference of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) was held in Las Vegas on October 22-24, 2019. While the conference covered many different topics relating to business aviation, urban air mobility (UAM) was the star of the show.

One of the highlights of the 2019 NBAA conference was an exhibit space, which included samples of emerging technology in the UAM industry. UAM also featured in a variety of talks and panels during the conference. Two of the biggest UAM conversations at NBAA 2019 were about the economic feasibility of UAM and the push for autonomy in UAM vehicles.

Economic Feasibility of UAM

Several significant technical and regulatory challenges must be overcome before UAM becomes a reality. However, the potential economic value of the UAM market gives UAM developers the incentive needed to overcome these challenges.

A report co-authored by NBAA and NEXA Advisors, LLC was released during the NBAA 2019 conference. The purpose of this report, titled “Business Aviation Embraces Electric Flight, How Urban Air Mobility Creates Enterprise Value,” was to announce the results of a study performed by the two organizations to determine the business use cases for UAM in cities around the world.

In the course of the study, the two organizations studied 74 different cities. For each city, they collected a wide variety of data related to UAM adoption including but not limited to:

  • Infrastructure
  • Regulatory landscape
  • GDP
  • Traffic congestion
  • Existing transportation networks

The goal of the study was to provide businesses with the data necessary to determine the feasibility of using UAM to solve the “last mile” problem faced by many industries. The study provides decision-makers with data including the number of existing heliports, projected vertiports, infrastructure costs, and multiple other features. NBAA and NEXA have made the results of the study and the data that they produced available via an online web portal.

Achieving Autonomy in UAM

The UAM industry has solved a number of technological problems around UAM and is currently developing vehicles that meet the strict requirements for UAM. One of the remaining challenges to be solved is autonomy.

The UAM dream is based upon the concept of fully autonomous aircraft, but artificial intelligence and machine learning, the technologies needed for autonomy still have a ways to go. The autonomy issue was discussed by a panel at NBAA 2019.

One of the main takeaways of the autonomy panel at NBAA 2019 is that autonomy is a spectrum, and the goal of UAM development should be to work slowly through this spectrum. By starting with solutions that enhance the effectiveness of human operators and moving slowly to full autonomy, UAM developers can work out any bugs in a safe environment and gain the trust of customers and regulators, which is essential to the success of the UAM industry.

UAM at NBAA 2019

The UAM industry already has the support that it needs to succeed. Big organizations like Uber are pushing the development of UAM solutions to aid their business, and NASA is organizing a UAM Grand Challenge to help source solutions to the biggest technological challenges facing UAM.

NBAA 2019 provided an environment for productive discussions about how businesses can help UAM to succeed. The report authored by NBAA and NEXA describes the cost of making UAM feasible and profitable in 74 different cities around the world. Panels and talks discussed some of the biggest remaining challenges facing the UAM industry and how best to approach them. Overall, the conference demonstrated the enthusiasm and support that drives the development of UAM.

Contact Performance Software today to learn how we support UAM innovators.

 

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