Leveraging legacy DNA
“With great power comes great responsibility” is not just a quote popularised by a superhero franchise (originally penned by Voltaire). Just ask the aviation original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) charting their routes across the world of advanced air mobility (AAM). Where flying over urban populations is concerned, there is a responsibility for the safety of their passengers and those their aircraft fly over. Noise is also a big factor.
In October 2020, Embraer’s market accelerator Embraer X (X for exponential) launched its first project – Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions. Eve CEO André Stein told Revolution.Aero that the company is leveraging the “agility of a start-up with the DNA of Embraer”.
Eve will focus on delivering a 4-passenger air taxi, as well as its own urban air traffic management solution to market by the middle of the decade. It will be able to integrate eVTOL, general and business aviation aircraft.
Stein said some of the early use cases for the aircraft could be medical missions and commuter services including airport shuttle trips. It is also looking at corporate shuttles and sightseeing trips.
The price for its air taxi service will be similar to premium ridesharing platforms, starting at “potentially be between 50-100% on top of what UberX would cost”. However, these costs will go down as flights move from piloted to autonomous.
Eve plans to leverage the Embraer “global footprint” to provide service and support to operators, OEMs and other parts of the AAM network.
“We want to do more than what a typical OEM does today. Be part of that [urban air mobility] operation, but also go one step further and engage you with the local operators – both from fixed wing and helicopter worlds – to sell capacity,” says Stein.
Wichita-based OEM, Textron Aviation, also recently announced the consolidation of its work with emerging technologies. The branch, eAviation, will be led by senior Textron executive Rob Scholl.
A spokesperson from the company told Revolution.Aero: “There are synergies across our aerospace and defence businesses. eAviation is going to look at how we can most effectively bring them together as part of an overall strategy around aircraft electrification and connected mobility technologies.”
Textron’s rotorcraft company Bell is not new to the space. Bell has already released concept designs for its hybrid-electric air taxi Bell Nexus, which is a partner in UAM ridesharing platform, Uber Elevate.
But Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said the OEM will take a cautious approach to the eVTOL market. In a call with stock analysts in January, he said: “I do think we have to be cautious here in terms of not getting too far out front of a regulatory environment that’s very uncertain to allow that business model to be successful,” he said.
Perhaps the solution lies in collaboration. Stein said finding the right partners in different markets is essential. “One size does not fit all and we believe that one single company cannot create the solution itself. It’s always about finding the other pieces of the ecosystem.”
To this effect, Eve is leading a UK consortium to research and introduce eVTOL flights in and out of London. Stein also said it is exploring Australian cities as another key market. Embraer continues to be a partner in the Uber Elevate network, which was recently taken over by Joby Aviation.
It is not only aviation OEMs integrating with the AAM sector. Private jet operators such as Wheels Up, Jet Linx Aviation and Directional Aviation have also announced partnerships or interest in future technologies.
What remains to be seen is how these companies combine their expertise to benefit the overall industry. Keep your eyes peeled for your friendly neighbourhood OEM.