A report published by the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI) and the German Unmanned Aviation Association (VUL) calls on government officials to take greater action in support of urban and regional air mobility initiatives, including recognizing eVTOLs as a “strategic technology of the future.”
The industrial-political position paper, released by both organizations in October, predicts aviation will “look different from what it did at the beginning of the millennium” by the end of the decade. Citing the European Commission’s Flightpath 2050, which aims for 90 percent of travelers in the EU to be able to reach their destination in under four hours, the technology associations see eVTOLs and urban/rural air mobility as “key enablers for achieving this goal,” along with hybrid-electric and short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft.
“First positive steps to strengthen the position of Urban & Regional Air Mobility (UAM/RAM) taken by politics and ministries have become apparent,” the report notes. “With the federal government’s action plan and the emergence of smaller, well-tailored funding initiatives, as well as the increasing search for coordination with industry, the first signs have been set. However, these activities are still quite fragmented. For this reason, this topic deserves higher strategic attention.”
Germany is home to numerous well-funded eVTOL development projects, including Munich-based Lilium and Bruchsal-based Volocopter, considered the two leading European companies in the space. Airbus also continues to explore urban air mobility through flight tests of its CityAirbus technology demonstrator in Manching.
Writing as technology representatives for the industry, the report’s authors call on German officials to expand funding to existing research programs, such as in battery technology, and increase their flexibility for new aerospace applications. The position paper also advocates for greater investment protection for German suppliers, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the creation of public-private research collaborations like those commonly found in the United States.
“It is particularly vital that existing funding lines should inspire the formation of viable consortia, including among others young start-ups, and support knowledge transfer between the German aviation research community and industry aiming at strengthening Germany’s competitiveness on the global market,” the two associations write.
Aside from aerospace projects, the report advocates for greater investment in UAM infrastructure, accelerated planning and approval procedures, tax exemptions for zero-emission aviation — similar to a policy implemented by the Canadian province of British Columbia — and greater efforts undertaken to proactively foster social acceptance of these new technologies.
“German policy is expected to recognize Urban & Regional Air Mobility as a vital field of strategic technological leadership and to promote it accordingly,” BDLI and VUL write. “The development of new UAM/RAM concepts, e.g. in the field of electrical propulsion concepts, is an important intermediate step in technology development and will also boost the further development of climate-neutral engines of larger aircraft in the medium term.”