Advanced air mobility for regular people
By Ben Iannotta|February 2022
Our special focus on advanced air mobility in this issue exemplifies how we plan to take readers along with us to the cutting edge of understanding of this topic. We’ll continue to cover the technology associated with the airframes and propulsion, as we do in our cover story about quiet flight (p. 24), but we’ll also look beyond such traditional technical topics for a very good reason.
A host of problems beyond the airframe must be solved if the leaders in this field are to revolutionize local transportation for regular people, rather than for a clique of wealthy people, as is the case for now with space transportation. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing that the rich must inevitably lead the way, for what will seem like an eternity, in any consumer innovation.
My theory is that the faster lots of these aircraft get airborne safely, the faster prices will come down to something regular people can afford.
One issue blocking the way at the moment is inadequate weather forecasting. These electric aircraft must fly at relatively low altitudes, and for that reason their operators are going to need uniquely granular real-time weather data and forecasts so they’re not surprised by conditions along the routes. The feature “Weather woes” (p. 16) tells you about that problem and the possible solutions.
Our Q&A with Joby Aviation’s Tom Prevot (p. 10) demonstrates that the California company is thinking big about how to serve lots of customers, and soon. Prevot’s job is to lead the company through the fine points of rolling out its service in 2024, right down to how the consumer app will work and the basic pricing. We often hear that the “business case” can’t be closed until autonomous flight or remote piloting of multiple aircraft is achieved, but here comes Joby looking to make a go of it in 2024 beginning with its piloted, four-passenger aircraft.
Of course, along the way in this revolution you’re going to need specific information presented in an interesting way. So we created a map graphic (p. 30) that shows you which among the leading companies is flying prototypes and where.
We have more ideas brewing ahead for this beat, which is among the most important for this magazine.