Urban Rural Air Mobility refers to transportation systems that move people and goods by air. These transportation systems developed in response to both traffic congestion in the Urban context or accessibility in the Rural context.
While the two different environments differ dramatically the challenges for transport and delivery are very similar.
DIFFERENT JUNGLES – SAME PROBLEMS!
Urban Air Mobility. (UAM)
Ever-greater urbanization is a well-publicized trend with more than 66% of the world population expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, cities are being forced to expand. Their transportation systems are growing – more roads, more railway tracks, more subway lines, more bus routes for people entering, leaving and traversing cities. In Lagos, Nigeria commuting time has risen to 30hours per week.
The urge to escape earth bound hindrances to the freedom of the skies and to just soar above it all has been part of human nature since before the Wright brothers built their first experimental aeroplanes.
UAM has the potential to release the gridlock strangling the streets and is already used in emergency services, transport of blood and organs, traffic monitoring, public safety and passenger transport.
The UAM model emerging is Mobility as a Service (MaaS) similar to the Uber or Lyft model: call for a ride through an app when you need one.
Key UAM applications:
LAST MILE DELIVERY. Rapid delivery of packages
Similar to: FEDEX. <2.2kgs from local distribution hubs to dedicated receiving vessel – unscheduled as and when requested. <15kms round trip.
AIR METRO. Similar to current transit metro options: subways, busses.
Similar to: METRO. 500kgs payload predetermined routes, regular schedules, set stops in high traffic areas. 2 – 5 passengers per trip, average of 3. Requires 100 to 300 vertistops or building per area.10 – 100 kms per trip.
AIR TAXI. Door to door ridesharing
Similar to: LYFT and UBER. VTOL from desired pickup locations and specified drop locations – unscheduled and on demand, 2 – 5 passengers average of 1 per trip. 500kgs payload. Requires convenient buildings, or vertistops. 10 – 100 kms per trip.
UAM Infrastructure. (Vertiports)
Morgan Stanley forecasts that by 2040 the total addressable Urban Arial Mobility Market to be in the order of $1,5trn.
However investments in physical infrastructure languishes at about 1% of the overall amount. Other projections include that the number of drone will reach 20 million in 2020, aircrafts will reach around 30,000.
UAM mobility vehicles will need to be able to dock at Vertiports which will have to deal with issues of high-transport locations, charging, safe landing and take-off, airspace maintenance repair and overhaul, and enable multi-modal forms of transport.
The drone taxis are likely to form a significant part of a longer commute using a combination of public transportation and ride services. Regularly scheduled flights from vertiport to vertiport along a defined path will solve many of the safety and regulatory challenges of integrated airspace.
The challenge for UAM service providers would be to build a new system of transportation to make travelling more efficient, effective and but a similar cost to driving.
About the aircraft:
- Various configurations of last mile, or remote, delivery drone configurations are being piloted by various courier companies.
- Unmanned aerial personal transport is typically a five-seat VTOL vehicle capable of speeds of 300 km/hour and a range of about 200 kms on a single charge. The aircraft is very quiet during both take-off and landing, and when flying overhead.
- The expected costs for last mile delivery is 3 cents per km and for air transport is $3.5 USD per km.
Rural Air Mobility (RAM)
RAM is a different picture. While accessibility is also a challenge the emphasis moves from convenience to necessity. Applications frequently focus on life threatening circumstances and saving lives with drones.
Figure 5 African Roads
- To illustrate the point just one-third of Africans live within 2km of an all-weather road. It is assessed that there is a more than $50 billion investment gap in infrastructure throughout the continent.
- In most African countries the full expanse of a country can be reached in either less than 1 – 2 hours, or less than 1 hour with suitable specified drones.
- Like with Cell phones Africa is well placed, not being hamstrung by ageing fixed infrastructures, to leap frog normal tech adoption rates
- Business case/economic justification more difficult but the wide open spaces generally enable more unrestricted access and make it easier to do POCs for Urban applications
Modes of Transport examples (KENYA):
- Rural cargo delivery with drones (eg medicine) are being pursued in: Kitui County medical delivery and Kendu ‘ Lake Victoria islands.
- Drones for intra-city and cargo is being utilised in a Nairobi-based vertiport network to overcome traffic problems.
- Long range passenger transport and tourist services utilises drones in Nairobi – Maasai Mara and Mombasa for sight seeing
At least 50 cities worldwide are incorporating urban mobility drones into their long-term plans. WEF states that drones can help rural Africa take flight and overcome its annual $112bn infrastructure deficit.