Exploring the Future of Urban Air Transport: Key Players, Market Expansion, and Regulatory Insights

Amidst a showcase of defense jets, passenger airliners, and cutting-edge aviation gear at the Singapore Airshow, electric air transport vehicles took center stage, hailed as the forthcoming solution for urban transportation.

Electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles, known as eVTOLs, capable of vertical take-off and landing, promise a myriad of applications including air taxis, cargo delivery, medical and emergency transportation, as well as personal use.

At the airshow, three major players were caught in the eVTOL arena: Supernal, owned by Hyundai Motor Group; Wisk, backed by Boeing; and Eve Air Mobility, a subsidiary of Embraer. These companies are aiming to commercialize their eVTOLs by the close of this decade.

They emphasized the potential of eVTOLs for air taxi services, particularly for short-distance urban travel. “So it’s just going to be another way to travel instead of just going from the airport to downtown and you get stuck in your car for two hours … well, they’ll have an alternative that could be fully electrical,” remarked Johann Bordais, CEO of Eve Air Mobility, in an interview with CNBC.

Eve is currently in the testing phase with an air taxi prototype and sets its sights on launching its concept into service by 2026.

Korean Air collaborates with Supernal,
Partnerships and Deals: Korean Air collaboration with Supernal, Wisk’s discussions in Brisbane.

“We can use similar infrastructure that helicopter operators currently have,” stated Jaiwon Shin, CEO of Supernal, in an interview with CNBC. Shin highlighted that while initial operations may focus on urban areas, they anticipate expansion to routes connecting satellite cities over time.

“We are open to all possible use cases because there is no existing market out there,” Shin remarked, emphasizing Supernal’s adaptability to various applications of eVTOL technology.

Supernal’s S-A2 eVTOL prototype, unveiled earlier this year, is tailored to accommodate four passengers and a pilot, with plans to bring it to market by 2028. Meanwhile, Wisk, supported by Boeing, is actively developing its autonomous aircraft, boasting capabilities akin to those of Supernal.

Additionally, Lilium, a German eVTOL developer backed by Tencent, revealed at the Singapore Airshow the launch of a customer service organization tailored for the eVTOL industry. Their services include battery management, maintenance, and flight support, signaling a comprehensive approach to supporting the burgeoning eVTOL market.

Focusing on the United States as a test case, companies express their intentions to pursue regulatory and safety certifications to initiate eVTOL operations in the country. Catherine MacGowan, Vice President of APAC and Air Operations at Wisk, outlined the company’s plans to enter the U.S. market by the end of the decade. Additionally, Wisk is engaged in discussions with authorities in Brisbane, Australia, aiming to establish an eVTOL network in the region.

“We’re looking to establish and advance the mobility network in Brisbane and the surrounding cities ahead of the Olympic Games. So that’s really exciting,” commented MacGowan, noting Brisbane’s hosting of the 2032 Olympics.

eVTOL industry.
Regulatory Landscape: Supportive regulations in Asia pose opportunities and challenges for the eVTOL industry.

MacGowan also disclosed Wisk’s partnership with Japan Airlines to develop eVTOL operations in Japan, along with other countries across Asia. The region is seen as a high-potential market by the industry, signaling growing interest and investment in eVTOL technology. Supernal’s Shin revealed plans for expansion into South Korea, leveraging the support of automotive giant Hyundai Motor Group.

In a significant move, South Korea’s largest airline, Korean Air, inked a deal with Supernal in October, aimed at constructing and advancing the infrastructure essential for urban air commuting and the commercialization of Supernal’s eVTOL vehicle in Korea. Shin highlighted the interest expressed by Incheon International Airport, South Korea’s primary international airport, in Supernal’s offerings.

Alan Lim, a director at Alton Aviation Consultancy, pointed out the presence of supportive regulators in the region, citing Japan, Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand. However, Lim cautioned that Asia faces challenges in developing an ecosystem to sustain widespread eVTOL operations. Shin expressed his expectation that the eVTOL market will resemble the automotive industry more than the commercial aviation industry, where Boeing and Airbus dominate.

Lim echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the diverse designs and use cases for eVTOLs, indicating that no single form factor will dominate the market. He likened the industry’s trajectory to that of the automotive sector, envisioning a landscape with numerous large and small eVTOL manufacturers coexisting, with some finding niche areas and use cases for their vehicles.

Sajda Parveen
Sajda Parveen
Sajda Praveen is a market expert. She has over 6 years of experience in the field and she shares her expertise with readers. You can reach out to her at [email protected]
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