The high concentration of people and vehicles in urban centers has led to high levels of pollution, while trapping many people in traffic for long periods. These trends have led to a decrease in life quality but both traffic and pollution could be reduced through the introduction of a disruptive innovation that can optimize traffic in cities: Advanced Air Mobility (AAM).
AAM, referring to the concept of using vertical takeoff and landing vehicles in urban areas, has the potential to drastically change the way people travel and the way people live in the cities and its surroundings. Nowadays, AAM is one of the disruptive and eco-friendly innovations that can drive social transformation. But for innovation to be truly disruptive its benefits must be available for a large percentage of the population. “When a disruptive innovation succeeds, huge changes happen in a short time,” said Antonio Campello, Founder, Innova 2 Elevate.
While AAM is still not a reality, many companies are making great strides to make this technology possible and introduce environmentally friendly vehicles to cities. Developers are investing in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL), electric conventional takeoff and landing (eCTOL) and electric short take-off and landing (eSTOL) technologies, all of which produce no CO2 emissions. Through new technologies and business models, the goal to achieve eco air transportation for short and mid-range distances, at an accessible price, is becoming more viable. Optimally, the ticket’s price of air mobility should be as low as possible to allow millions of people within a city or country-side to fly free of traffic.
To make air mobility possible, new business models that will assure affordable ticket pricing should be pursued. These business models should consider an initial fare of US$5 per mile per person and throughout time lower the fare to US$2 per mile per person, said Campello. These fares will allow air mobility to compete with ground transportation.
To provide faster air transportation of both passengers and cargo, a new ecosystem must be created. Hubs for multimodal transportation will be fundamental to develop air mobility. Existing installations like shopping malls can be adapted to host multimodal transportation hubs, as the added flexibility will encourage businesses.
Disruptive innovation will demand new regulations. Authorities in Mexico and abroad are closely following the potential of air mobility. Everything that flies should be under the supervision of the aeronautical authorities to provide a safe and efficient environment for future air mobility and transportation, explained Campello.
The AAM boom is approaching. Morgan Stanley estimates this market will be valued at US$1 trillion by 2040. When excess liquidity merges with disruptive innovation, it allows for startup businesses to develop faster, accelerating technological maturity. In the case of AAM, the ride ticket price will be the breakthrough that will show the maturity of this technology, potentially allowing the market to take off.
AAM will also create new business opportunities that will ignite economic growth. Aircraft manufacturing and its related value chain are some of the new areas of opportunity where Mexico can show a competitive advantage, explained Campello. Cities must prepare and business readapt to capture the new opportunities brought about by this trend.
Before entering the mainstream, AAM will have to overcome several obstacles. Chief among these challenges is energy storage, which still has to mature to allow these aircraft to be fueled by electricity during the time it takes the vehicle to complete its route. Moreover, AAM certification is still in its early stages and clear quality standards for product, manufacturing and operation must be defined and agreed upon.
Direct operating costs will be the key driver of the adoption of AAM. When operating costs drop, further implementation of AAM solutions will become more attractive and economically viable. However, public acceptance and adaptation will define the success of AAM. Adapting to disruptive innovation might cause resistance. The speed at which societies incorporate AAMs into their daily lives will mark the degree of success of this disruptive innovation.
“A disruptive innovation process with a cultural change that includes social and environmental benefits will transform social interactions and guide society toward sustainability and wellbeing. That is the potential AAM has to revolutionize our transport dynamics,” said Campello.