Ground travel can be a notoriously time-consuming affair. Travel is regularly delayed by traffic during peak travel hours and can be detoured by geography or road availability. In response, we are researching the capability for immediate and flexible air transportation, known as On-Demand Mobility (ODM).
With ODM, trip origin, destination, and schedule are dictated by the passengers, and travel times are expected to be a fraction of those by car. ODM aims to provide travelers with a fast mode of transportation that improves existing trips and enables new ones. Designs for ODM aircraft vary greatly, from small package delivery UASs to nine-passenger transports, but they typically serve one of two categories of missions:
Urban air mobility (UAM) missions involve enabling mobility around metropolitan areas for passengers and cargo.
Examples include last-mile delivery services, daily work commutes, and airport transfer services. Operations out of small airparks integrated into the urban landscape necessitate aircraft designs that can takeoff and land in a very short distance. Additionally, because trip distances are short, realizing short travel times requires an emphasis on ease of use over high-speed flight.
Regional missions involve delivering passengers or cargo between urban centers or to remote locations via direct, higher speed flights. Vehicles are envisioned to operate from airports located outside of urban centers, so aircraft designs are less constrained by short takeoff and landing requirements. The capability for on-demand regional missions is facilitated by the 5000 public airports already in existence across the United States, reducing the amount of additional infrastructure that needs to be developed.
ODM is made possible by the convergence of several emerging technologies. Distributed electric propulsion, autonomy, advanced manufacturing techniques, and increasing connectivity are all contributing to a new era of safe, affordable, environmentally friendly, and personalized air transportation.