Written by AVISTRA Managing Director, Sara Hales
Depending upon the circles you are in, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) may be something that has your urgent attention and is commanding some budget and senior leadership time, or AAM may be something that you regard as a problem for tomorrow.
Afterall, you are busy managing operationally critical flows through some of the trickiest times in our Gen Xer lives. You may be stuck in the business, and don’t really have the headspace or the budget for some sci-fi like Jetsons inspired fantasy.
However, AAM, like microwave ovens, personal computers, and even aviation itself, is most certainly coming. And probably, faster than you think.
On Thursday 21 July, Wisk Aero showcased their aircraft Cora in Brisbane’s CBD, following the announcement of a partnership with the South East Queensland Council of Mayors to bring autonomous air taxi operations to South East Queensland ready for the Brisbane 2032 Olympics. This is an exciting announcement and proves that we really are on the cusp of AAM happening in Australia.
Globally, there is more than $15B USD invested in the development of new and emerging aircraft technology. From hydrogen powered conventional aircraft to electrically powered vertical take-off aircraft and a variety of things in between - innovation on aircraft technologies has exploded and reaches far beyond the realms of the traditional aircraft manufacturers.
A terrific industry resource, the AAM Reality Index, ranks companies developing eVTOL, eSTOL and new electric powered conventional aircraft by likelihood of ‘certifying their aircraft, entering service, and producing it in thousands of units per year’. For those thinking this is a problem for tomorrow – it’s time to take another look.
First test flights of these emerging aircraft occurred in 2018, for at least 4 of the current market leaders. Many OEMs are slated to test fly their aircraft in 2022 or 2023. A number of cargo aircraft developers are expected to see their aircraft enter into service as early as 2023, while leading passenger aircraft developers anticipate their aircraft entering into service as early as 2024.
Australia isn’t at the leading edge of development for most of these technologies, although some Australian aircraft operators have placed provisional orders with OEMS. In fact, the AAM Reality Index suggest that 250 aircraft orders have been placed for aircraft to be delivered to Australia.
Industry sources suggest that these aircraft could start turning up as early as 2026.
So, in the next four years or so, we as a nation need to get our heads around how we are going to manage these aircraft in Australia. CASA and Air Services Australia have heavily engaged with industry around the development of a suitable regulatory framework, but much else is yet to be determined. We need to consider how we:
Plan for and protect the required infrastructure
Manage and plan for integrated public transport networks with electric aircraft (both crewed and uncrewed) as part of the mix
Adjust workforce and ensure we have trained the right people in the right locations
Ensure the industry rollout meets the needs of all Australians, not just the urban centres
Ensure the electrical distribution network is ready.
As a nation we need to work out how we leverage the power and promise of new emerging aviation technologies for the enduring benefit of all Australians. Through AAM we can:
Improve connectivity for remote and regional communities
Improve service delivery
Improve supply chain resilience
Create new opportunities for tourism development
Enhance connectedness between locations and across industries
Realise the promise of decarbonised of transport.
Optimising the social, economic and environmental opportunities inherent in AAM will require fore thought and collaboration between industry and government in the name of a greater good. It requires imagination, and willingness to take intelligent risks and to position Australia at the forefront of what is a fast moving, global industry. It requires putting aside commercial competitiveness and personal interest in the name of something bigger.
That’s why we created Greenbird. Greenbird is an industry collaboration platform dedicated to a world where air mobility is for everyone, and it doesn’t cost the Earth. We are bringing together industry and government to deliver on the promise of AAM for Australia.
Now is most definitely the time to not only think about AAM, but to work out what your role is, what your opportunities are, and how AAM might impact your traditional business if you don’t plan for change. Right now, we have time to build something pretty amazing, for all the right reasons.
Dedicated to the sustainable economic and social wellbeing of communities, AVISTRA provides commercial and strategic advice to airports and government focusing on air freight, aviation development, airport strategy, infrastructure investment and emerging aviation technologies. Clients trust AVISTRA to deliver the objective, data-driven insight and guidance required to inform their business strategies, allocate capital, prioritise resources, and manage risk.
For more information about AVISTRA, or to get in touch, visit: avistra.aero.