‘It is essential to learn from the past when developing urban air mobility. Between 1953 and 1979, New York Airways operated a helicopter shuttle service between New York Cities Airports and Manhattan. The service was discontinued due to safety concerns following several accidents that resulted in personal injury. [1]. A similar UAM concept also existed in Los Angeles during this time. These were the first UAM applications.

Public acceptance levels declined rapidly after these accidents. The service was no longer in sufficient demand and had to be discontinued.

The success of UAM is mainly dependent on technical and organizational safety. UAM concepts must be safe so that passengers can use the service with a good feeling. It must also be ensured that the ground infrastructure enables safe flight operations.

EASA has published the first technical specifications for take-off and landing areas of vertiports for manned eVTOLs (electrical vertical take-off and landing). UAM services are likely to be provided mainly by eVTOLs in the future. The ground infrastructure required is therefore different from that of a conventional heliport, especially with regard to firefighting and passenger rescue. EASA refers in the technical specifications for vertiports to emergency procedures for conventional heliports. These precautions and methods must be adapted. Suitable fire extinguishing devices must be available to effectively fight fires of lithium-polymer or lithium-ion accumulators.

Passenger rescue from an electrically powered aircraft is also different from passenger rescue from an aircraft powered by conventional fuels. Emergency services must be properly trained and equipped. Who is responsible in the event of an emergency, the municipal fire department or the airport fire department? These and similar questions must be clarified. Adequate emergency standards must be in place before personnel-carrying UAM concepts can be implemented.

The operation of Unmanned Aircrafts (UAs) as a component of UAM or AAM (Advanced Air Mobility) could gain new momentum in 2023.

With the possibility of establishing U-Space airspaces in the European Union member states starting in 2023, Unmanned Aircrafts could become an even more significant part of the value chain. In theory, U-Space airspaces enable automated beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations. UAs could thus open up regular and terminable transport capacity for useful applications such as transporting medical products, lab samples, important documents, etc. The transport of fast food, internet store products, etc. is explicitly not included.

However, setting up U-Space airspaces alone is not enough. The potential can only be exploited if the responsible authorities in the individual EU member states can also approve automated BVLOS operations. In Germany, for example, only a few BVLOS projects have been approved so far. The reasons are mainly due to the very extensive and complicated approval procedures. The approval procedures must be optimized so that approvals can be granted more quickly, effectively and, above all, more easily.

Furthermore, appropriate U-Space service providers must be available to offer U-Space services at reasonable cost.

U-Space-Airspace means that UAs can be fully integrated into air traffic. It should not be forgotten that the airspace is not only used by commercial air traffic and private motorized air traffic, but also by sports aviation. Sport aviation includes non-powered privately used aircraft such as gliders, hang gliders, etc. Many sport pilots operate in airspaces where transponders are not mandatory. Consequently, the majority of these aircraft are not equipped with a transponder. For this reason, it should be ensured that the U-Space airspace areas are only as large as absolutely necessary, so as not to hinder the sport pilots in the pursuit of their hobby.’

[1] Garrow, L.A.; German, B.; Leonard, E. Urban Air Mobility: ‘A comprehensive review and comparative analysis with autonomous and electric ground transportation for incoming future research’; Transportation Research Part C (2021).