HELICOPTERS FOR THE URBAN AIR MOBILITY MARKET
The development of electric and hybrid VTOL (eVTOL) aircraft around the world promises to usher in a new era of aerial mobility, changing the cost of access to vertical flight and potentially opening new markets. Each of the four major helicopter manufacturers namely Airbus, Bell, Leonardo and Sikorsky, are taking a different approach to confronting the market disruption eVTOL aircraft and urban air mobility will leave in their wake, with the former two companies investing heavily in public projects on the bleeding edge of the vehicle revolution while the latter two maintain more of a “wait-and-see” approach to the vehicles themselves. Interaction with helicopter executives from Airbus, Bell, Leonardo, Sikorsky and industry analysts shed light on what the near-to-medium term market impact is likely to be and the reasoning behind each OEM’s strategy. Analysts largely agree that traditional rotorcraft sales will not be impacted in the near future, despite variance in the expected size and arrival timeline of the UAM market. Michael Dyment, managing partner of Nexa Advisors, is more confident that electric air taxis will create new markets, though he expects to see peaceful coexistence between the new aircraft and traditional helicopters.
Richard Aboulafia, Vice President of the Teal Group is skeptical that new eVTOL aircraft will result in a brand-new urban air mobility market that justifies the current investment into the space. “What will matter is to what extent these aircraft open up airspace and markets and people begin to think differently about helicopters,” he added. “There are a lot of places where helicopters just are not all that welcome.”