“I see the development of a viable AAM ecosystem relying on two major pillars,” said Lorenzo Murzilli, the Founder & CEO of Murzilli Consulting. “First, the clear and unambiguous definition of roles and responsibilities—and liabilities—of the ecosystem players. And second, the understanding that AAM has to be fully included in urban mobility initiatives and treated as one of the urban means of transportation, fully integrated and complementary to the others.”
Without those two elements, Murzilli cautioned, “the technology push we are witnessing today will infringe on the reality of a rather inflexible mobility system driven by complex public interest negotiations, as well as strict safety regulations.”
Murzilli also feels that certification requirements and integration issues present significant roadblocks to the development of the AAM ecosystem.
“Overcoming the strict certification requirements that will apply to all products in the ecosystem, from the aircraft to the vertiport to the crew, is another issue we must address,” Murzilli stated. “Also, I believe that the challenges around ground infrastructure are still not fully understood. Integrating vertiports in complex urban environments, connecting them with other means of transportation, ensuring sufficient passengers demand and guaranteeing their security are just a few of the obstacles that have to be overcome for a vibrant AAM ecosystem to become a reality.”
For Murzilli and others, these challenges can only be overcome through collaboration. Business leaders, government regulators, consumers, and other stakeholders must share ideas and insights and work together.
“One major obstacle to the creation of the ecosystem is that very diverse players that do not typically interact with each other,” said Murzilli. “Think of a city planner and an aircraft design engineer. They have to understand each other’s requirements very well. But too frequently, we avoid these conversations, and there is a tendency to revert to assumptions—assumptions that are almost always wrong.”
In recent years, many AAM leaders have created initiatives to bring together AAM stakeholders. For example, the World Economic Forum announced the launch of the Advanced and Urban Aerial Mobility Cities and Regions Coalition in March 2022. The goal of the effort is to take a “proactive policy” approach to using UAM technology to move people and goods more efficiently and address issues such as congestion, noise, and privacy. Central to the effort is engagement between AAM industry leaders and local policymakers.
Similarly, NASA is forming AAM ecosystem working groups. Aimed at engaging public on AAM-related issues, the groups bring together AAM businesses and representatives from state and local governments. According to NASA, the working groups “will be a forum to communicate industry demonstrations, research and development (R&D) priorities, and share concepts that may enable AAM. Participants will help identify the critical parameters and standards that may impact the future framework development and approach for safety, certification, airspace, aircraft concepts, technologies, and architectures.”
Also, this fall, AAM leaders will come together in Switzerland for Aerial Cities. The event was created by Murzilli and Eszter Kovacs, CEO & founder of Manageld and co-founder of DroneTalks.online. Murzilli is hopeful Aerial Cities will encourage the creation of strong relationships that will lead to the development of a viable AAM ecosystem.
“There is no doubt that an AAM ecosystem cannot be established without strong collaboration between key industry and government decision-makers,” he asserted. “To this day, there are way too few possibilities for those leaders to interact and understand each other’s needs. We observe in the few panels and events where such conversations happen that the semantics are still not aligned and that way too many conversations are driven by incorrect assumptions.”
This, Murzilli said, is the reason why Aerial Cities was created as “an invitation-only event for decision-makers in the AAM and drone industry to meet and interact with local and state authorities and foster meaningful conversations that will ultimately strengthen the ecosystem and allow to form new partnerships and initiatives.”