The specific needs of disabled passengers should be considered when planning advanced air mobility (AAM) aircraft and services, according to a new white paper that calls on regulators and industry to focus more on this stakeholder group. The paper was prepared by Aerobility, a UK-based not-for-profit organization encouraging disabled people to fly, and the Civic Air Transport Association (CIVITA Global).
The groups argue that new modes of transportation using eVTOL aircraft will meet their full potential only if all travelers, including disabled people, are able to make full use of them. The paper spells out several ways in which regulators and companies developing AAM and urban air mobility (UAM) services need to account for the needs of disabled passengers.
First, ground infrastructure for operations in urban areas must be designed to facilitate access for disabled people. The paper added that regulators must take account of these needs when establishing rules to cover AAM operations.
Aerobility and CIVITA Global also called on companies developing aircraft and supporting infrastructure for so-called smart cities to include groups representing disabled travelers at the early stages of design and development work. Beyond the existing requirement for aircraft to be certified by aviation safety regulators, the groups said, AAM services should have to secure a license from the communities they serve to vouch for factors such as accessibility. The white paper proposed that a repository of best practices be established to share engineering solutions for accessibility between aircraft and ground infrastructure developers.
“Around 10 percent of the world’s population face major mobility impairment challenges,” said the authors. “And with over half the world’s current 7.8 billion people living in cities, a proportion which grows bigger every year, urban air mobility is now the single biggest opportunity to transform mobility options for millions of people who struggle daily with currently inaccessible ground transport services.”
In December 2020, the UAM Initiative Cities Community, representing 14 cities and regions in Europe, submitted a manifesto to the European Commission calling on local authorities to play a key role in the development of UAM initiatives across the continent. The Manifesto on the Multilevel Governance of Urban Sky was drawn up by leaders from cities including Aachen and Hamburg in Germany, Amsterdam and Enschede in the Netherlands, Liege in Belgium, and Malaga in Spain. The initiative is part of the European Union's Smart Cities Marketplace program.