Are eVTOLs the future of mobility?
Imagine a new kind of transportation that could whisk people to destinations affordably and accessibly while also reducing emissions and even potentially saving lives. This isn’t science fiction. This is electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) technology.
eVTOL is a burgeoning wholly electric transportation form that combines the vertical take-off of helicopters with the horizontal flight of airplanes — and it has the potential to upend the transportation industry. Eventually, eVTOLs may provide short intracity and intercity trips for the price of a higher-end Uber or Lyft, replacing car travel and reducing highway congestion as well as the greenhouse gas emissions that go with them.
While eVTOLs are expected to be in operation within the next few years, there are policies and regulations that must be established before they can be integrated into our transportation networks. Here are three policy points currently in the works that will be key to getting eVTOLs up and flying.
Safety and flight regulations
As with any new industry, consistent regulations are important to maintain safety and manage potential issues. In the case of eVTOL,NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are working together, harmonizing deployments and developing safety regulations for these new vehicles and their supporting facilities known as vertiports. The agencies are considering flight-related issues such as safety, takeoff and landing, operations and flight routes as well as quality-of-life issues like noise andenergy supplies. Also doing due diligence are states, municipalities and agencies where eVTOLs are expected to operate. AECOM professionals are helping these entities understand state and locality-specific regulations and how eVTOL deployment will fit into their transportation networks.
Once regulations emerge and eVTOLs are off the ground, they may do more than just transport people and goods—they may also help save lives. The U.S. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 95 percent of vehicle crashes are caused by human error on the ground and 54 percent involve other vehicles. Developing and safely integrating eVTOL into our transportation network will reduce highway congestion with the resulting decrease in vehicles on the roadways decreasing the potential for crashes. And, looking into the future of eVTOL, when these aircraft are automated, the potential for human error will be removed from the equation, even further reducing the potential for vehicle crashes on the ground.
Vertiports provide the infrastructure for eVTOL maintenance, passenger loading and charging and are major parts of the eVTOL industry. While there are some federal standards regarding vertiport form, none exist for function and location. This poses a critical challenge. Since many types of eVTOL models are in development, each with different requirements, developing standardized yet flexible vertiports will be key to industry success. Our professionals encompass aviation, energy, facilities and infrastructure, all with a full understanding of vertiport requirements, including siting and energy supplies.
While we are working with NASA to help set standards across the board. We are also engaging directly with eVTOL manufacturers and operators as well as with states and municipalities to develop standardized vertiport designs that comply with FAA regulations and can be strategically deployed, adapted and expanded to meet state- or locality-specific needs while helping make eVTOLs accessible to the general public.
As with any industry, eVTOL demands a comprehensive knowledge of functions to be viable. And that will entail understanding how the energy, infrastructure, electrified transportation, aviation and facilities components work together. With our vertical integration capabilities, we integrate our professionals across these areas of expertise advancing effective measures for eVTOLs that move goods or people.
Our team is at the technical forefront for eVTOLs helping states and municipalities analyze and establish routes that make sense and that are competitive with other types of transportation. We are working on two fronts to help eVTOL routes fulfill equity needs by establishing vertiport locations and also helping determine the technical means of payment for these routes.
With concerns about climate change and equity top of mind, energy efficiency and the transport of goods and people continue to be a priority for federal, state and municipal officials. The very real possibility of establishing and advancing eVTOL, once considered the stuff of science fiction, will help each of these entities in their quest to manage these difficult issues.