On The Radar
The latest update to SMG Consulting’s thought-provoking Advanced Air Mobility Reality Index adds a pair of new eSTOL manufacturers—Electra and Airflow. Among the eVTOL crowd, the index incorporates only two changes: Archer climbs to sixth place with a 7.2 ranking while Airbus’s CityAirbus moves down to just 4.5, perhaps because it is no more than a technology demonstrator and the European aerospace group remains silent as to whether it will ever bring an eVTOL design to market.
Ahead of Archer, in descending order from the top, the updated index lists Joby, Beta Technologies, Wisk, EHang, and Volocopter. Below Archer are the following eVTOL contenders: Hyundai Urban Air Mobility, Lilium, Eve, Sabrewing, and Vertical Aerospace.
U.S.-based SMG started producing the Reality Index around eight months ago, with the intention of providing a consistent and objective way of sorting serious contenders from the massed ranks of dreamers and chancers in the advanced air mobility space. The company uses five core criteria to assess companies and their programs: funding, the experience of the team, technology readiness, certification progress, and production readiness. It developed an algorithm to assess these factors and regularly updates the milestones that should be considered, such as the issuing of a military airworthiness approval or design/production organization authorization.
“We pride ourselves on being data-driven, and we want to take subjectivity out of the picture,” SMG co-founder Sergio Cecutta told FutureFlight. “We don’t want hundreds of companies [in the index]; the industry has a very long tail, and we are being very selective.”
For now, the index includes just 20 companies. SMG has ambitions to expand it beyond aircraft manufacturers to include infrastructure developers, aircraft operators, and suppliers.
The latest update, released this week, also features new infographics to show different vehicle types and what SMG calls “the race to entry into service.” The company feels the new eSTOL aircraft could prove to be very competitive in opening up new regional air mobility markets.
Cecutta acknowledged that this industry isn’t always as transparent as it might be and that some companies could do with shedding the rose-tinted spectacles and being less generous with the Kool-Aid. In his view, those peddling a groundlessly optimistic narrative about their prospects will get found out sooner or later. “It will get easier once companies go public because then they will have to over-communicate,” he reflected.
While tracking companies expected to be first to market with new aircraft and services, SMG believes that this won’t be a case of winner takes all. It sees potential for a second wave of new air taxi market entrants benefitting from lessons learned by the first wave. “No one has ever launched what amounts to a city airline, and the first companies to do so will get the issues out of the way for those who follow,” Cecutta commented. “The end of next year is when the rubber meets the road and that’s when we should know who will actually meet the 2024 milestone [for launching initial commercial services].
On that basis, it sounds like the rallying call for December 2022 could be "put up or shut up."