On The Radar
Some observers would liken the nascent advanced air mobility sector to a gold rush or even a horse race. There was a time before the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner into the global economy that it seemed more like a stampede.
Some, including FutureFlight, would argue that the field of contenders in the contest to bring new types of aircraft to market has never really been as large as has been suggested by the more hyperbolic assessments. In any case, it certainly appears to be thinning now, with the more credible new programs apparently pulling ahead of the pack as the finite pool of funding and the scale of the technical and regulatory obstacles become fully apparent.
The question of how to rank the unprecedentedly large array of new aircraft programs in terms of their likelihood of achieving success will always be open to debate and even contention. But that doesn’t mean the discussion isn’t a worthwhile, and even enjoyable, activity.
In this spirit, aerospace engineering services specialist Abbot Aerospace released its updated Aerial Urban Mobility Rankings as 2020 came to a welcome close. Richard Abbott, president of the Canadian company, put together the rankings with the help of updated weighting and methodology that reflect various assessments of the technical, certification, and commercial risks associated with getting new aircraft and their supporting technologies to market.
Abbott’s rankings are based on the Vertical Flight Society’s excellent eVTOL Aircraft Directory, which in recent years has sought to log each and every new program. They are broken down into five sub-categories, namely: Vectored Thrust, Lift + Cruise, Wingless Multicopter, Hoverbikes, and Electric Rotorcraft.
The rankings of 220 programs will puzzle, and even annoy, some of the companies concerned, including some of the self-proclaimed frontrunners in this sector. However, Abbot’s criteria seem to have been applied consistently, and the company invites further input, while acknowledging that it has contributed (either on a paid or pro bono basis) to some of the programs included in the listings.
The FutureFlight database takes a different approach in assessing new aircraft programs, and one that is in part driven by clear evidence of sustained (and sustainable) progress towards certification and market entry. Nonetheless, the Abbot Aerial Urban Mobility Rankings represent a fascinating contribution to a debate that will likely run for the remainder of the 2020s.