On The Radar
A relentless flow of research reports keeps predicting vast market opportunities in the nascent advanced air mobility (AAM) sectors. Much of the envisaged demand hinges on what is generally regarded as the inevitable public acceptance of eVTOL air taxi services. But less than three years away from the anticipated launch of early commercial operations, relatively little attention seems to have been given to asking prospective passengers how they feel about this prospect.
This is the core question addressed by the new report Up in the air: How do consumers view advanced air mobility prepared by the aerospace and defense research team at McKinsey, the management consulting firm. During March they surveyed around 4,800 transportation consumers in the U.S., Brazil, China, Germany, India, and Poland about attitudes toward using eVTOL aircraft for passenger and freight delivery operations.
The survey asked respondents to consider six people-moving use cases including commuting to and from work; runnings errands; business travel; short-distance leisure travel (e.g., trips to movie theaters); long-distance leisure travel (e.g., visiting family members in other cities); and trips to and from airports.
Among the headline takeaways from this interesting study was that Indians and Brazilians appear to be the keenest to try AAM services. But the numbers may not be as compelling as you might imagine.
Among Indians, 31 to 47 percent said they would definitely consider using an eVTOL or other new aircraft, depending on the use case. In Brazil, where helicopter flights are relatively commonplace in congested cities like Sao Paulo, the spread was 21 to 32 percent. Indians and Brazilians also came out as the most willing to pay premium rates to travel in eVTOL air taxis for airport trips.
The lowest level of enthusiasm was recorded in Germany, where two leading eVTOL aircraft developers, Volocopter and Lilium, are based. There, only 8 percent said they would consider using AAM vehicles for long-distance leisure journeys, rising to 17 percent for airport trips.
In the U.S., interest seems greatest for business travel (26 percent), with the proportion of respondents expressing a willingness to use the new aircraft ranging from 10 to 18 percent for the other use cases. Chinese consumers said commuting would be their most likely use for AAM services (21 percent), while the same percentage of Poles indicated airport transfers would be their preference.
Overall, the spread between the various use cases was relatively even in the six countries. Across the board, the desire to reduce travel times was the clearest motivation for experimenting, by comparison with other factors such as carbon neutrality, novelty/fun, safety, and not having to drive.
The report also provides a detailed breakdown of consumer preferences around the use of eVTOL aircraft for cargo deliveries. Chinese and Indian respondents were most willing to pay premium rates to receive goods this way.