Sikorsky will demonstrate a new vision for urban air mobility (UAM) this week at CoMotion LA, working with Otis Elevator Company and the helicopter operator Helinet Aviation on an integrated, app-based approach.
The demonstration at the third CoMotion conference in downtown Los Angeles will provide more detail on the ideas the helicopter manufacturer first shared at HAI Heli-Expo earlier this year, said Jonathan Hartman, disruptive technologies lead for Sikorsky Innovations. Participants will be able to download a version of Otis Elevator’s eCall smartphone app, which will present them with a choice of destinations and relevant flight times. After making their selection, the app will guide them to an elevator and up to the rooftop of a parking garage. The app will constantly communicate with the elevators, avoiding congestion by telling the user which elevator to take.
When the user reaches the top of the building, they will come to a future heliport concept, designed by Helinet. There will then be flyovers and demonstrations by a Sikorsky S-76D, as helicopters remain “today’s UAM solution,” Hartman said. Some participants will have the opportunity of flying in the helicopter, he added, by taking off from a helipad a few miles from the experience.
Part of the goal is “to show the fact that there’s a disconnect [for UAM] today, and that’s a lack of infrastructure,” he told eVTOL.com. Participants will be asked to partake in an interactive poll at the rooftop, answering questions about the future of UAM.
Sikorsky’s focus is on the infrastructure side of UAM, Hartman said, with the aim of creating “systematic, holistic solutions,” like the one being demonstrated at the show. He underlined the need for UAM of the future to adapt to existing infrastructure, in which many cities have already invested trillions of dollars.
The goal is to create a seamless solution within the boundaries of this infrastructure, he said. For example, the elevators being used in the demonstration are existing systems that have been temporarily modified; such modifications will be necessary on a far wider, more permanent scale to support UAM of the future.
If UAM is to be extended and systems like air taxis accepted by society, “we have to start breaking down the physical and mental barriers between people and aviation today,” Hartman said. Today, airports are typically placed on the outskirts of cities, where fences surround them; likewise, “helipads are very controlled things.” The aim of the type of technology the companies are showing at CoMotion is to make taking an air taxi as simple as getting a taxi on the ground, he said, with Sikorsky keen to assess how that can become a reality.
“We hope it leads to some really interesting discussions about what we have to do to make the system safe, accessible, and affordable, so it can be as big as we want it to be,” Hartman said.