EBACE Convention News

EBACE Showcases New Frontier of Urban Aviation

 - May 22, 2019, 8:14 AM
Urban air mobility has been the talk of EBACE and took center stage in a discussion staged at the Innovation Zone. For the first time at EBACE, three companies brought mockups of unmanned vehicles, such as this FACC EHang 216. (Photo: David McIntosh)

EBACE 2019 put urban air mobility (UAM) on center stage Wednesday in its Innovation Zone, where moderator Cyrus Sigari, co-founder of JetAviva introduced a slew of innovators in the sector to show attendees. Among that group were a host of familiars, including Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer.

Sigari suggested that Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is correct when he said innovation doesn’t just happen, noting that people have to be passionate enough to put both their money and hearts into it. The state of the UAM industry might be nascent, but that does not mean things aren’t happening.

In fact, nearly a dozen vehicles that qualify under the UAM moniker are in active flight-testing today, according to Sigari. He added that Morgan Stanley predicts the UAM market will be worth $1.4 trillion by 2040.

“Growth in this market is exponential. We know of 120 programs in development at the end of 2018,” Sigari said. At that point, he opened the session to other participants, who included Andrew Stein, technical director at Embraer X, and Pascal Traverse, general manager for autonomy research at Airbus, among others. 

The eVTOL project is just one portion of Embraer X, the future forward-looking division of aircraft manufacturer Embraer that was introduced appropriately at the millennial dense tech innovation event South by Southwest (SXSW) several years ago.

“Embraer was one of the first to answer the challenge by Uber in 2017 for Uber Elevate,” said Andrew Stein, who spoke representing Embraer as a panelist at EBACE. “Urban air mobility really fits the bill of what we are doing, finding new markets for Embraer. We want to bring airspace closer to the people. We can see people spending hours stuck in traffic and we are happy to share some of the solutions we are looking at for urban air mobility.

"In the case of competition, yeah, it is good,” he said, “especially when in such a new market, we kind of need each other. Cooperation is key in the beginning as we are now.”

Embraer X has offices in Sao Paulo, Brazil; Boston, Massachusetts; Melbourne, Florida; and in California's Silicon Valley, among other places. The group is also working on solutions for air traffic control that encompasses UAV and UAM traffic with commercial and general aviation traffic, in a holistic vision of tomorrow’s airborne community.

Meanwhile, Traverse said Airbus has been working on electric propulsion and UAM for some time. More recently, the company is working hand in hand with Audi on porting technology from its research into an autonomous eVTOL machine. He noted that Airbus wants to control the whole process, from manufacture of the vehicle through deployment in the urban environment.