The precocious advanced air mobility (AAM) sector saw lots of hype in the financial markets in 2021, and even experienced “a little crash,” but according to Manfred Hader, head of consulting group Roland Berger’s aerospace team, it will get past an anticlimactic period and deliver on its promises to investors and wider communities who stand to benefit from more convenient, green air transportation. On Wednesday, Hader told the Global Urban & Advanced Air Summit (GUAAS) that the industry is on track to achieve a scale of around 160,000 eVTOL and eSTOL aircraft by 2050, generating at least $90 billion in annual revenues, a figure that will still only represent around 10 percent of the total aviation market at that point.
According to Roland Berger’s latest research estimates, the Asia-Pacific region will account for just over half (51 percent) of the new sector in terms of aircraft, flight volumes, and revenues. The Americas will account for the next biggest share with 33 percent, followed by Europe with 11 percent.
The Europe-based consultancy group has tracked some 8,700 provisional sales agreements for eVTOL and eSTOL aircraft logged to date. Together, Vertical Aerospace and Embraer subsidiary Eve account for almost one-third of those deals.
According to Hader, 109 investment deals happened in the AAM space last year, raising just over $7.5 billion. He described this wave as “the window of opportunity” for special purpose acquisition companies that responded to the urgent need for eVTOL start-ups to find more cash to keep their programs moving toward certification.
“AAM is coming down from the peak of inflated expectations and it is near the trough of disillusionment, but there is good reason to believe it will still achieve enlightenment and productivity,” Hader told the GUAAS conference, held at Farnborough Airport in the UK.
In his view, the industry must now prioritize the development of the “system of systems” needed to establish the physical and digital infrastructure needed to establish a secure ecosystem for the new air taxi services. “Nothing is really there yet, so it will have to be put in place on a greenfield basis,” Hader said.
Roland Berger feels that it will take another three or four years to get commercial eVTOL flights started. That is somewhat longer than some of the more bullish start-ups predict, but the prognosis was shared by Rolls-Royce Electrical customer business director Matheu Parr, who told the GUAAS audience the market will start in 2025 or 2026 with initial service focused on airport-to-downtown shuttles. He explained that the task of getting city and national authorities on board with the safety case for AAM will take at least that long to complete.
David Rottblatt, vice president of business development for Eve, said that ridesharing booking platforms will play a key role in making flights more affordable and accessible based on the scale of their lift capacity and ability to exploit sophisticated pricing software. He pointed to the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo, which already has almost 1,300 air taxi flights every day using existing helicopters, as evidence of the strong potential for the new technology to exploit.
In London, Eve and some of its competitors are engaged in joint work to develop a concept of operations for AAM. The work involves the UK Civil Aviation Authority, London City Airport, and air traffic management group NATS.