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Autonomous Vehicles, New Mobility & the Built Environment

Preparing Communities for Takeoff

“We are focused on helping state and local decision-makers with figuring out urban mobility, understanding what e-VTOL aircraft are, what their opportunities and challenges are, and how to integrate this new technology into their communities and into their existing transportation landscapes in the most productive, most positive, most responsible way possible,” said Anna Mracek Dietrich, Co Executive Director of CAMI (Community Air Mobility Initiative). Echoing Princeton’s Dr, Kornhauser, CAMI is about creating a welcoming environment for a new type of aircraft that could begin landing in our cities in the first half of this decade.

Having co-founded flying car company Terrafugia in 2005 and then consulting for others in the realm of certification, gave Dietrich the experience and foresight to see the value in an organization like CAMI. And although launched in late 2019, it already has a roster of respected industry brands, such as Black & Veatch, Bell, Joby (just received $595M funding from Toyota), Raytheon and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. These entities realize that the most efficient, safest, and clean form of transportation will not succeed unless it wins the hearts and minds of the local and state officials, but their constituents as well.

And the board of advisors is equally experienced in all facets of this complex industry, including aircraft design, aviation business, infrastructure, urban planning, the investment community, and policy. Stay tuned for a Viodi View interview with one of those advisors who explains his concept for how 4.8m passengers per year could transit through a 3-acre vertiport. Dietrich points out the importance of looking at urban air in a holistic manner that includes ground transportation and accounting for such seemingly mundane things as curb space.

But, curb space, and more generally, land-use is one of the few tools that local officials could use to effectively ground the urban air fleet of tomorrow. If the air taxis of the future are not easily accessible to population centers, then it could greatly impact the market size for what will eventually be dominated by quiet, electric flying machines. Hence, the importance of the work that CAMI has begun in paving the way for third-dimensional pathways into and out of the cities.

Rural is going to be an important market, particularly with initial rollouts. It goes beyond having restricted airspace or a place to test things where the risk of mistakes is lower. It even goes beyond whisking people and/or cargo from urban areas to rural towns faster and cheaper than what could be done by a wheeled vehicle. As Dietrich points out, the medical applications of lower costs associated with electric urban air mobility could literally be lifesaving.

And the infrastructure in rural areas is often already in place, as, according to the CAMI website, 90% of the U.S. population lives within 30 minutes of a small community airport. As is seen in the interview with George Bye of Bye Aerospace, many of these flights may occur using CTOL (Conventional Takeoff and Landing) aircraft.

CAMI’s maiden voyage where it will explain the urban air mobility opportunities and learns the concerns and aspirations of local officials on this topic is at its UAM 101 event on March 16th in Glassboro, NJ. This half-day event is being held in conjunction with a Vertical Flight Society Workshop on Urban Air Mobility Infrastructure.  Stay tuned, as CAMI is sure to be a go-to resource for knowledge about all things having to do with UAM.

Author Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

By Ken Pyle, Managing Editor

Ken Pyle is co-founder of Viodi, LLC and Managing Editor of the Viodi View, a publication focused on independent telcos’ efforts to offer video to their customers. He has edited and produced numerous multimedia projects for NTCA, US Telecom and Viodi. Pyle is the producer of Viodi’s Local Content Workshop, the Video Production Crash Course at NAB, as well as ViodiTV. He has been intimately involved in Viodi’s consulting projects and has created processes for clients to use for their PPV and VOD operations, as well authored reports on the independent telco market.

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