Inaugural summit explored ‘grand, scary vision’ for UAM market plus technological, regulatory and financial challenges
Day two of the Global Urban Air Summit at Farnborough saw synergies drawn between UAM and motorsport and an agenda which focused on innovation and technology to drive future flight.
Challenges around battery power proved a major theme. Fabien Nestmann, Global Head of Public Affairs for Volocopter, said: “Batteries are never good enough – from iPhones to eVTOL. The more lightweight powerful batteries, the better.”
Stu Olden, Senior Commercial Manager of Williams Advanced Engineering, said learning from parallel industries was the high point of the summit. He drew synergies between UAM and Formula One.
Mr Olden said: “UAM and Formula One face similar challenges: strict regulations which change and adapt; rapid technology development, and sustainability and environmental pressures.”
UAM needs ‘systems engineering approach’
Speaking about the issue of managing battery power, Mr Olden drew on the real-time analysis conducted during F1 races, explaining that better battery management systems; managing the cells and the data coming from them, and “analysing the health of a battery pack,” could contribute to a solution. He said: “What’s key is that we don’t look at the battery in isolation but take a systems engineering approach.”
The regulatory environment remained a key theme during the second day of the summit. The CAA, which has created a dedicated Innovation Hub to bring new technology to market, was represented by Technology and Innovation Manager Frédéric Laugère. Mr Laugère said: “As a regulators, we want dialogue with the industry. We want to undertake trials in a safe environment to see what works, and what doesn’t work.”
“Grand vision is scary for us”
“You [the UAM industry] have a grand vision which is scary for us. We understand there are many steps and the need for regulation to move at pace with your journey, and we want to become more agile.”
Making the UAM industry financially successful was a complex issue with Clive Lewis, MD of Achieving the Difference explaining that while the market potential is large: “The risk lies in the fact we don’t know when the industry is coming or what its scale will be.” According to Mr Lewis: “The biggest contributor to reducing the price of UAM travel will be autonomy.”
Gareth Rogers, CEO of Farnborough International said: “We are very proud to have created and delivered a Summit which has proven valuable and impactful. Hearing Davis Hackenberg of NASA congratulate us on the agenda was a moment of celebration for the whole team and something that will guide us as we create a year-round portfolio of events to support more aspects of the aerospace industry.
“We plan continue leading this conversation; next July’s Farnborough International Airshow is to feature the world’s biggest showcase of technology and innovation transforming how the world flies.
“A number of speakers referenced Concorde, highlighting the fact that today’s UAM achievements echo the development of that legendary aircraft. Much of that work took place here in Farnborough, making this a highly appropriate location for a Summit on future flight.”