Research Projects

Urban Air Mobility Market Study In Reserve

Assigned to Adam Cohen

Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is a safe and efficient system for air passenger and cargo transportation within an urban area, inclusive of small package delivery and other urban Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) services, which supports a mix of onboard/ground-piloted and increasingly autonomous operations. In recent years, UAM has developed rapidly due to advances in technology and with pilot projects underway in Dubai and planned for Dallas and Los Angeles in the early 2020s. The objective of this effort is to conduct an initial study for a potential UAM market to understand community interests and market conditions from all aspects such as political, economic, social, technological, environmental, and legal. The assessment should first consider the fundamental question of whether a legitimate market exists. If a market does exist, the analysis should anticipate the timing of major market events such as entry into service and expansion of service under different UAM applications.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

As long as there have been cars and airplanes, manufacturers and urban futurists have envisioned a future with flying automobiles. As early as the mid-1920s, Henry Ford began imagining a future of "plane-cars" and even developed lightweight, single-seat aircraft prototypes in an early foray into aviation. Since then, numerous companies have built and delivered a variety of concepts intended to test short-range aerial transportation. Innovators understand that aerial vehicles and drones have the potential to dramatically reimagine urban mobility and goods delivery by, for example, taking advantage of underused airspace and reducing commute times (through faster flight times and bypassing ground congestion). Today, a number of firms are developing Automated Aerial Vehicles (AAVs) and Piloted Aerial Vehicle (PAV) prototypes, with the first non-helicopter automated aerial taxi service prototype currently undergoing testing in Dubai.

Given these developments, there is a need to research advancements in short-range low-level aerial on-demand mobility and delivery services, such as AAVs, PAVs, and drones. Research topics could include the market potential for these services, potential impacts, rights-of-way rules, airspace management, potential and needed regulatory reforms to foster innovation, and safety certifications (for both ground and air-worthiness).

This study proposes that the contractor provide a qualitative and quantitative analysis of five potential Urban Air Mobility (UAM) markets. The markets chosen should capture the most challenging aspects of UAM to enable a thorough consideration of the economic, legal/regulatory, and social barriers to adoption. Markets should therefore involve flights carrying people, operated either autonomously or by human pilots. For example, they could be 1) routine commuting from a residence to an office, 2) air ambulance, or 3) a routine law enforcement presence/patrol. The chosen markets should be defined to include the operation model (e.g. owning or leasing vehicles), expected costs (e.g. number of vehicles, life-cycle cost of operating vehicles, insurance, training, etc.) and constraints. The analysis should span the evolution of the market, from initial service to wide/routine service. Vehicles used for the potential markets should accommodate the broadest range of challenges and barriers. For each potential market, the analysis should include

  1. the potential size of the market both in volume and in value;
  2. price points at which the market becomes viable;
  3. expected timing of major market events such as entry into service and expansion of service;
  4. price sensitivity curve or other suitable depiction showing anticipated relationships between list price, service provider costs (including at least vehicle, operational, and infrastructure), customer demand, revenues and profits; assumptions, rationale, and timeframe should be clearly documented,
  5. anticipated cost to enter the market, considering factors such as vehicle acquisition and life cycle, operation liability, maintenance and replacement/upgrade schedules, and
  6. the various customer segments (e.g. regular business commuters, ad hoc travelers, etc.);
  7. characteristics of population density, traffic patterns, affordability, and preferred locations (considering elements such as noise tolerance and locality preferences);
  8. competition for UAM transportation or services (e.g. driverless cars and multi-modal transportation options, on-demand ride hailing services, virtual presence, etc.), providing cost comparisons where applicable;
  9. vehicle requirements – for example, safety, certification requirements and the requirement for specialized equipment,
  10. air traffic management service requirements – for example, taking into account predictable flights but random times (on-demand), random flight paths, flights with no notice, a dramatic increase in the number of flights within the system and the potential for a single source of control for multiple aircraft,
  11. ground infrastructure requirements and management strategies consistent with the envisioned UAM network and connectivity to other transportation modalities as needed for efficient, "door-to-door" travel, and unplanned landing sites,
  12. assumptions made related to the market and this analysis and levels of risk associated with each of these assumptions; and
  13. any other market aspects deemed important during the research study.
Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

At a minimum, this project will require an extensive literature review, expert interviews, and market analysis.
Additional research techniques could include focus groups, a general population survey, modelling, and other
qualitative and quantitative methods. The purpose of the literature review will be to review industry and academic
literature on potential UAM markets. Potential sources of information include UAM academic literature, existing
urban transportation market analysis, venture capita
list (VC) startup and industry player research and development
(R&D) portfolios, conference materials, and primary interviews with academics, VCs, regulators, and startups.
The research project could conduct an interim assessment and identify 10
–15 potential UAM markets and key
characteristics critical to market assessment. Following an interim assessment and in consultation with an ACRP
panel, the research project could down select 3-
4 markets for an in-
depth market assessment. To conduct the in
rket assessment of the markets, the research could include expert interviews, an economic analysis (to demonstrate
market viability), and employ other methods to identify legal and societal barriers, and mechanisms for overcoming
and/or minimizing such barriers.
As part of this research, the project would expand upon existing and historical on-
demand aviation business
—both successful and unsuccessful
—to derive lessons learned and determine market viability for a new, light
aviation mode that could
include an array of ownership models (i.e., fleet owned/operated, private ownership, and
fractional ownership) and use cases (i.e., air taxi, air ambulance, etc.).
Additionally, airspace capacity and performance as well as communication, navigation, and surveillance
requirements pose potential limitations to widespread adoption of UAM. As such, the project could also investigate
the role of these limitations through analysis of the existing airspace system (regulation and technology) and
potentially recommend reforms, needed technologies, and best practices to make light aviation more accessible to

Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

Some of the barriers to urban air mobility operations include safety certification of autonomous vehicle systems,
community noise impacts from vehicle operations, cyber security protections, safe airspace integration with
traditional airline operations, and many others. These issues are closely tied to ACRP's current research portfolios.
ACRP is well positioned to collaborate with the FAA, industry, and academia to identify the requirements for safe
UAM operations and to guide research that can facilitate safe operation in busier airspace.
$350,000 is necessary to conduct a complete market analysis including potential markets,
lessons learned from early
international tests, and provide a state of the practice assessment of existing technologies, societal barriers, and
potential regulatory reforms needed to allow for UAM operational testing and launching in the United States.
UAM is important for a number reasons. First, UAM technologies are already under development and being
deployed worldwide. EHang and the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) are already pilot testing an air taxi
service in Dubai, UAE. As such, the market has the potential to create a new on
-demand travel mode. Additionally,
UAM provides a mechanism for field testing emerging aviation technologies, including but not limited to electric
propulsion, VTOL, automation, and airspace management technologies.
According to the 2016 Airbus Annual Report, "The development of electric and hybrid-
propulsion aircraft is one of
the company's key priorities for the future, and the Chief Technology Officer is leading this 'E
-aircraft Roadmap'
with the long
-term goal of
applying electric and hybrid-
propulsion technologies to helicopters and regional airliners.
-powered thrust fans for aircraft will contribute to the aviation technology environmental targets of reductions
of CO2 emissions by 75 percent, NOx emissions by 90 percent, and noise by 65 percent by 2050."
Understanding the opportunities and potential applications for UAM is critical to this effort as it can become a
mechanism for testing and developing e
-aircraft technologies for future commercial aviat
ion applications.

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

Due the recent emergency of light
-electric VTOL aircraft, there is limited published research on the topic of Urban
Air Mobility (UAM). In 2016, Uber did conduct a preliminary market analysis of the topic. However, the study is
two years and reflects the views of a particular operator. Since Uber's study, more details have emerged on actual
aircraft that are coming to market and active UAM pilots internationally (e.g., Dubai) for which best practices and
lessons learned can be applied to a market study based on actual findings from early field operational tests. Uber's
study is available at:

Idea No. 68