‘The European Green Deal, the EU’s new growth strategy, calls for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as the development of digitalisation. The transport system as a whole should be made smart and sustainable, with the uptake of innovative technologies such as electrically and hydrogen-powered aircraft.

From the point of view of EIT Urban Mobility — an initiative of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union — a holistic future-forward vision is essential for implementing UAM and drone services in Europe while taking aspects such as safety, security, societal acceptance, and sustainable development into account. In this context, improved collaboration between private and public entities is the key.

In the light of the European Green Deal, and Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy, the main areas to be focused on in the development of Urban Air Mobility are 1) Ensuring a harmonised legal and technical certainty on the EU level, to support research and infrastructure initiatives, and to encourage private sector investments. 2) Mapping living labs, to take stock of the progress made in implementing UAM, and to identify citizens’ and stakeholders’ needs that can be efficiently addressed by UAM.
In addition to the climate change challenges, rapid urban growth raises the need for developing and implementing strategies to promote alternative sustainable mobility solutions. The future of urban mobility could be played up in the air. Air Emergency Medical Service (Air EMS) provides unique and important opportunities in the field of medical transport.

Medical professionals, emergency responders, and hospital staff face a host of challenges on a daily basis, challenges UAM can help overcome. Drones make it possible to deliver blood, vaccines, and other medical supplies to rural areas and have the ability to reach victims who require immediate medical attention within minutes. New operational models that leverage UAM markets show promise to enhance Air EMS scale, and emerging technologies such as flight automation and electric aircraft show potential in increasing Air EMS safety and provide opportunities to deploy Air EMS assets as part of a UAM system to increase utilisation.

Zipline has established a feasible business model to streamline global health supply chains since 2016. In 2020, the COVID-19 lockdown caused health threats to outpatients at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, Rwanda’s main cancer care referral centre, managed by the Rwandan government and Partners In Health. To this end, Partners In Health collaborated with Zipline to deliver cancer medications to local district hospitals. On-demand delivery reduced average patient travel time by 85%, reducing the risk of exposure, and increasing access to critical medicines and health care [1].

As drones are incorporated more into the health care sector, delivery and courier services provide the most potential benefits. More research is therefore required in order to further identify impacts on a city and regional level and to form guiding principles and measures in municipalities’ city planning efforts. The EU-funded AiRMOUR project focuses on identifying novel concepts and exploring solutions supporting sustainable air mobility in urban contexts via emergency and medical services. Through research and additional live validations in three European countries: Norway, Finland and Germany, and simulations in Luxembourg, the project will generate knowledge in the form of a guidebook for cities, operators and other stakeholders, a GIS Tool for urban planners, and a training programme. The identified best practices and project use cases can guide other European cities in integrating Air EMS into their urban planning processes, and support decision-makers in implementing strategies encouraging a more sustainable and integrated transport system.’

On the role of EIT Urban Mobility in UAM:

‘An increasing number of calls for R&I projects and city pilots on UAM are being launched and implemented in Europe with the goal to create an environment where solutions can be tested, and where experiences are continuously exchanged. It is the key to ensure that the resources in place are being  managed and used properly, taking advantage of a range of synergies  resulting from cross-field activities and multi-stakeholder  cooperation.

In 2021, EIT Urban Mobility initiated the Special Interest Groups (SIGs), to shape the future mobility landscape by fostering public-private collaboration, addressing key urban mobility trends. The ambition of EIT Urban Mobility’s Special Interest Group on Urban Air Mobility (UAM-SIG) is to support all UAM actors in the complex process of mobility transition we are facing, to create an ecosystem and to facilitate its development, in which all views and experiences are included.  

With this initiative, we have run several sessions with city authorities and key players, to identify best practices and relevant use cases that can address challenges faced by European cities, and to give feedback and recommendation for our upcoming Thought Leadership Study on UAM.

The UAM Plazza Accelerator Programme helps early-stage startups to scale up their business and provides them with the opportunity to implement their solutions in European cities. With our collaborative approach, we support responsible investments in technology, aligned with cities’ goals and offering solutions to urban mobility challenges.’

Images: EIT Urban Mobility