On The Radar
Public acceptance of flights in autonomous electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft is increasingly emerging as a key enabler, or a potential stumbling block, for urban air mobility. So far, however, there has been little in the way of published research gauging where public attitudes currently stand on this issue.
The public flight demonstration of Volocopter’s eVTOL aircraft on September 14 in the German city of Stuttgart provided a prime opportunity to hear from prospective air taxi consumers and opponents. The opportunity was seized by Stuttgart’s University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart), which surveyed 1,203 members of the public among several thousand who attended the Vision Smart City event. Around 20,000 people had the opportunity to view the Volocopter aircraft on the ground and some 12,000 witnessed the flight in front of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in a city rich in Germany’s automotive heritage.
Participants were asked about both their own attitudes to using air taxis, and how they felt about their wider use by others and the impact on society. Part of the sample group was further questioned before and after the event.
According to the research team led by professor Dr. Patrick Planing, the main findings were as follows:
- Air taxis are no longer a futuristic vision; the majority of the participants indicated that they can already imagine using them today. Time savings were identified as foremost among the anticipated advantages, along with “enjoyment of usage.”
- More than 80 percent of survey participants would support the availability of a Volocopter air taxi service in Stuttgart. Respondents expressed positive feelings about the prospects for eVTOL aircraft improving mobility options and also conveyed a sense of pride in Stuttgart being a launchpad for innovation.
- Almost half of the participants said they believe air taxis will become an everyday means of transport at some point in the future.
- Participants who experienced the live Volocopter flight rated it significantly quieter than expected. The number of people indicating a willingness to fly in the aircraft remained high before and after the flight demonstration.
- The findings also showed that people with more prior knowledge about air taxis are more likely to be willing to use them.
The poll sample was roughly 60 percent male and 40 percent female. Researchers said it covered all local income groups fairly evenly. Perhaps significantly, as many of 40 percent of people work in the automotive sector and only 14.8 percent said they had no prior knowledge of air taxis.
It is far from a given that these findings can be read across to other parts of the world. However, the research (funded by Germany’s transport ministry) does provide a clear snapshot of attitudes in a part of western Europe that may well prove to be a target market for early adoption of eVTOL air taxi service.