Until recently, Europe was seen by many as a market that is going to fall in the ‘follower’ category for the emerging Advanced Air Mobility industry. Eyes were on Uber Elevate to make AAM a reality in the United States by 2023 and equally on Volocopter and Skyports to launch commercial operations in Singapore in the same timeframe, following our successful flight trials and VoloPort Showcase back in October 2019. Whilst these targets remain broadly unchanged (although Uber Elevate is now part of Joby Aviation), a number of initiatives and government support have emerged making EMEA a prospective region for a thriving AAM market by mid-2020s.
The relatively recent and notable shift in the perception of the industry, from Urban Air Mobility to Advanced Air Mobility, and the underlying change of focus on a more regional / intercity mobility concepts may have contributed to making AAM more feasible in a European context. The prospect of connecting regions, both domestic and international, tends to be a more attractive proposition for government stakeholders across Europe. It is much easier to articulate use-cases with their associated socioeconomic benefits and some of the challenges linked to operating in congested urban airspace fall away. This approach gives the industry more time to gradually work their way into the city centres as the technology matures and public acceptance develops.
A significant driver behind the AAM market in Europe is the ever-increasing involvement of established transport and infrastructure players. In France, Groupe ADP, RATP Group and Choose Paris Region launched the Re.Invent Air Mobility initiative where Skyports will develop a full-scale vertiport testbed as part of the project to enable flight tests, vertiport operations and technology integration ahead of the planned launch at Paris Olympics 2024. In the UK, a consortium made up of Eve (EmbraerX), Skyports, NATS, Heathrow, London City Airport, Volocopter, Vertical Aerospace and atech is working with the UK CAA to develop and test the Concept of Operations for integration of AAM operations into London’s low-level airspace. Both of these projects are paving the way for commercial operations and are putting EMEA at the leading-edge in many respects.
The AAM industry in Europe is likely to continue seeing acceleration as a result of the ongoing convergence of EU’s Covid-19 recovery package worth €1.8 trillion and European net zero initiatives. Sustainable and resilient transportation is the centre of attention and AAM ticks the right boxes promising radical technological change and the much-needed productivity boost. The German government has been funding AAM projects with over €100 million, which includes the InCityTakeOff project in Ingolstadt which Skyports is part of. The UK government committed £125 million to fund UK’s Future Flight capabilities of which Skyports secured £2.5m together with consortium partners including Atkins and Vertical Aerospace to plan vertiport infrastructure and develop an AAM roadmap in the West of England. All of these efforts are underpinned by EASA’s progress in establishing and implementing new regulations and by the various standards-setting bodies like EUROCAE. In the Middle East, regulatory frameworks are also being put in place to enable the timely launch of AAM services, and new futuristic projects such as NEOM and the Red Sea Development are implementing AAM into their foundations.
Advanced Air Mobility in EMEA has stepped up and, at Skyports, we’re continuously working with our existing and new partners spanning vehicle OEMs, real estate, infrastructure & technology to lay the necessary groundwork for successful planning, design, development, and operation of vertiports across the region and beyond in anticipation of commercial operations from as early as 2024.