It sounds like something out of science fiction, but technological advances in the last two years mean that ‘urban aerial mobility’ – the movement of people and goods through the skies – is becoming increasingly likely.
Flying vehicles such as taxis and drones could one day supplement existing transportation networks and provide accessible service by air, according to a recent article by Harrison Wolf, project lead for aerospace and drones at the World Economic Forum.
Developments by the private sector have brought new air operators, new models of service and a new focus on electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) and autonomous flight, which could make urban air travel much safer.
At the same time, it has become more difficult to address the growth of cities and congestion with traditional infrastructure investments.
As a result, policymakers are looking at whether urban aerial mobility is one solution.
The City of Los Angeles, for example, is creating an aerial mobility network integrated with its other transportation systems and investments. Led by the Mayor’s Office, officials are also working with the World Economic Forum to connect city leaders from around the world in an international forum that will highlight early barriers, opportunities and lessons learned, which can be shared across communities.
Among the issues addressed will be equity and pricing, workforce and operational licensing, digital management of the 3D right-of-way, fleet management, cybersecurity and privacy, vehicle design and propulsion, land use and zoning, infrastructure and standardisation, regulation of operations, permitting and tax revenues, and environmental considerations such as noise and visual pollution.
“By working together, creating an international effort for harmonisation and connectivity – which is non-existent today – we can avoid the pitfalls that have prevented other forms of mobility from having a positive global impact,” Wolf concluded.