Speakers: Moderator Bruce J. Holmes, vice president of digital aviation, SmartSky Networks LLC; Eduardo Dominguez Puerta, head of urban air mobility, Airbus
Ben Iannotta, Aerospace America editor-in-chief
AIAA SCITECH FORUM, San Diego, Jan. 9, 2019 — Eduardo Dominguez Puerta, the head of Airbus’ urban air mobility unit, offered in his keynote address, “Flying Anyone From Here to There — Anytime, Anywhere,” a straightforward rallying cry: “Let’s stop dreaming, and let’s start making.”
Dominguez Puerta said the mobility revolution will unfold in a step-by-step fashion that he compared to the rise of the computing and software industries. Thirty years ago, he said, there were “these weird people that try to write code and create source code for machines.”
The revolution is “going to take time, and we need to be realistic,” he said.
Helicopters, such as the company’s Voom aircraft that take customers from Sao Paulo airport to the city center for $120 to $140, are a first step, he said, that will be followed by combustion-electric hybrids and eventually all-electric aircraft.
Dominguez Puerta said it should be possible to capture 3 to 5 percent of traffic from airports.
“That closes the business case,” he said, “and doesn’t take decades.” Dominguez Puerta explained that he anticipates urban mobility mixing with other modes of transportation and complementing them.
Out of the dozens of designs in the works today by various companies, he expects the field to eventually narrow to five or six configurations or manufacturers. Also, the first aircraft in the emerging market won’t be autonomous, he noted.
“Why do I say that? If you read those draft regulations from [FAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency], they don’t talk about autonomy,” he said, adding that removing pilots and replacing them with customers is going to take until 2030.
Nevertheless, he referred to “my lovely Vahana,” the all-electric, self-piloted aircraft by Airbus A³ that completed its first full-scale test flight last February. He showed an artist’s rendering of Vahana and then a photograph to emphasize that the vehicle is now a reality.
Eduardo Dominguez Puerta, head of Airbus’ urban air mobility unit, presents remarks on "Flying Anyone From Here to There — Anytime, Anywhere,” Jan. 9 at the 2019 AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition (AIAA SciTech 2019) in San Diego.
He said that, ultimately, city jurisdictions are going to demand electric aircraft that meet sustainability requirements and also noise requirements. Dominguez Puerta said authorities are warming to the promise of urban air mobility to alleviate congestion and noted that in his six months on the job, “I have met more politicians than at any point in my life.”
At the same time, safety is crucial, he said, adding that a crash can set developments back years.
“I think we should strive to have our vehicles as safe as commercial aviation,” Dominguez Puerta said.
As for the size of the market, he predicted it could reach $50 billion in 2030.
“Out of that, less than half is going to be the air vehicle,” he cautioned.
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