By Will Guisbond

Will is a mathematics student at the University of Vermont, focusing on data journalism and system analytics. He has been flying since he was 14 years old and currently holds his private certificate. Follow him on Twitter @willguisbond.


New research highlights Japan’s role in propelling advanced air mobility

The advanced air mobility (AAM) industry is expanding rapidly, and new data is emerging to describe the structure of this thriving global market.

In an April 2021 whitepaper, Osinto CEO Charles Osborne and Kolin Schunck, research and intelligence analyst at the Lufthansa Innovation Hub, point to markets that may not have been considered active players before.

One such market is in Japan, according to Osborne and Schunck. “There’s direct Japanese corporate interest in air taxi market leaders in Asia, Europe, and North America,” their paper states.

Japan advanced air mobility connections - SkyDrive
Researchers used the Japanese flying car company SkyDrive as a starting point for mapping Japan’s advanced air mobility ecosystem. Many of SkyDrive’s investors have interests in other AAM companies in Japan and overseas. Osinto Graph / SkyDrive Photo

This is primarily supported by a series of diversified investors that have been funneling capital into different AAM companies in Japan and abroad. According to the paper, contributors include the Development Bank of Japan, Z Corp, Sumitomo Mitsui, and Toyota.

“Japan has a very strong financial ecosystem in place already,” Schunck said. “Airlines are engaged and automotive companies are starting to enter the industry.”

These relationships between companies were mapped as a part of their research using what Osborne calls a “knowledge graph.” His company, Osinto, is developing cloud technology to map the structures of low-carbon transportation industries.

“Graph databases store information as nodes and links, and this allows us to see relationships and make suggestions,” he said. This technology allowed them to map a snapshot of the AAM industry globally.

This snapshot has helped to shed light on the industry as a whole, Osborne said: “You suddenly start to realize that players are deeply interconnected.”

While data has been able to show these relationships in America and, to an extent, Europe, Osborne and Schunck said that the Asian AAM markets aren’t nearly as visible in this same way.

Osinto LIH AAM map
Osinto’s map shows AAM organizations as nodes, and commercial relationships between them as links. The visualization reinforces that the air taxi segment is already complex despite its nascent stage.

“It’s partially cultural,” Schunck said. “Japanese businesses are usually more conservative about announcing technological progress.”

Osborne said that, in comparison, Americans place more value on brand and momentum, which often makes them more transparent from a business perspective.

The United States AAM industry is poised to reach a combined valuation of $115 billion by 2035, according to a Deloitte Insights study. That represents sevenfold growth from anticipated 2025 levels, the study states.

With other countries on a similar trajectory, it’s inevitable that some of these players will be interacting beyond just being competitive with each other.

“A global industry that collaborates is in everyone’s interests,” Osborne said. “This creates an enormous, powerful, and phenomenally safe transportation network that spans the globe.”

However, Osborne noted that the AAM industry is still a long way from achieving the level of interconnectedness now taken for granted in the commercial airline and air freight sectors.

“Do I think we’ll see that collaboration with AAM? In the short term, probably not, mostly due to the shorter range of the aircraft,” he said. The researchers explained that because most vehicles in development only have a range of a few hundred miles, there’s less reason to develop global logistics networks, at least until the technology develops further.

For Osborne and Schunck, that means they had their work cut out for them when writing this whitepaper.

“The purpose of this ecosystem study was to show players who are not yet known to other startups out there,” Schunck said. “[Global collaboration] will be helpful in driving this space forward.”

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  1. As I look at all the wonderful small planes of the future with electric motors, has anyone thought about developing an emergency (possibly multi) parachute system that could be deployed should one of these small craft catastrophically fail electronically and begin a rapid downward descent? What emergency systems do they have in place to keep them in the air?

    1. I guess parachute is not enough, EU requirement says emergency landing need to be under controlled.
      In my understanding, emergency system is not investigated enough yet, I’m interested in emergency thruster like rocket motor, spare motor and propeller looks too heavy.

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