As cities and suburban areas struggle with increasing congestion and the need to provide mobility services for a growing population, government policymakers and urban planners are beginning to ask how new aerial platforms can be part of the solution. Innovative companies are looking to test the possibilities of highly automated and electric flight in low altitude airspace, but require a clear policy environment to support deployment and implementation. With a rising urban rural divide, and traditional transportation projects requiring massive investments over long periods of time, new technologies and approaches to policymaking are needed today.
Local, state, and national governments will need to work with industry and community groups to develop policies that enable access to airspace while maintaining public confidence if the benefits of new forms of aerial mobility are to be realized. As cities seek to launch pilot programs, now is the time to begin designing policy principles to create safe, clean, and inclusive aerial mobility that works for all. This moment represents an important moment where policymakers can work in tandem with industry to enable and support disruptive technologies as they emerge.
The World Economic Forum’s Future of Mobility team at the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution is working with companies, policymakers, and civil society organizations to co-design the policies required to foster safe, clean, and inclusive aerial mobility systems that complement existing transportation networks. The output of this process will be a continuously growing library of shared knowledge to guide development of relevant aviation policies and to capture experiences from pilot projects in the field of low-altitude aviation with initial case studies from North America, Europe and Asia. This library is designed to help decisionmakers learn from and establish agile strategies for lifting their citizens out of gridlock, ensuring long-term environmental sustainability, and enabling multi-modal coordination for safe and seamless transportation in an equitable and accessible way. Over the past 9 months, the community has agreed upon 8 core principles to guide the urban sky.
Principles of the Urban Sky:
Safety: if society is set to accept any new transportation option, it must be safer than its closest equivalent, and that is aviation transportation. New forms of aviation must prioritize safety for passengers, operators, non-users, and other community stakeholders. Keenly aware of this fact, manufacturers and service providers in the low-altitude aviation space who target passenger travel soon, are already building a safety assurance not yet possible into their aircraft designs.
Low-Noise: Noise emissions and community disturbances should be limited by a community-first approach to vehicle design, infrastructure siting and route-planning. Community noise acceptance metrics should be co-created with stakeholders from throughout the city and ecosystem. Industry partners and government leaders understand that noise disturbances can challenge the expansion of any transportation system.
Sustainability: Through the process of engaging city and industry stakeholders, one priority outcome became clear - it does not make sense to spend resources, energy, and commitment opening the sky to new forms of travel if it only acts to pollute it.
Evidence Based Date Sharing: Never before have humans had a level of data analytics capable of deploying and managing a completely new mode of transportation in the urban sky. The computational power and digital communication tools necessary to support any number of information inputs, real-time analytics and two-way communications have only existed within the last decade. We can now contemplate how we might develop a holistic view of flight routing and interfaces with ground-side circulation.
Scalability: For next generation aviation to achieve price levels and efficiencies that are critical for the success and health of the network, providers must be able to show a path to scalable operations. At scale, safety, reliability, and utility of low-altitude aviation operations must be maintained with higher volume of service. In order to achieve scaled operations, transportation providers will need to partner with the city in a new and more dynamic way.
Equity of Access: The next generation of aviation should aim to provide mobility for underprivileged communities with the greatest need for enhanced mobility. Designing a new transportation mode that is accessible in a fair and equitable manner across multiple dimensions will ensure its public acceptance and longevity. Equitable access should be factored into business plans as criteria for design and factor of success.
Multi-Modal Connectivity: New transit modes should connect with existing forms of transportation and mobility hubs in secure and integrated ways. Where possible, next generation aviation should connect to existing, high quality transportation options (public and/or private), offering seamless travel from the air to destinations in populous build environments.
Workforce Development: New modes of aviation must create equitable careers and training opportunities for citizens of cities and the surrounding region. Unlike other technological changes being considered for the next decade, next generation aviation is expected to increase jobs both on the ground and in the air.
Coalition members are encouraged to:
Create a transparent policy-making process that enables UAM activity in your city or organization.
Host one international event bringing together a multi-stakeholder coalition
Adopt the Principles of the Urban Sky to encourage, secure, equitable, and clean mobility.
Share the policy-making experience for publication.