3 Oct 19

Darcy Olmos, Airbus: Readying Urban Air Mobility in Latin America

A smart city incorporates a proper ecosystem that enhances the quality and sustainable performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities in order to reduce the consumption of resources and overall costs, and to build more livable cities.


"One of the keys to building more livable cities and to contribute positively to an urban multimodal mobility system is to implement urban air mobility (UAM) in cities," says Darcy Olmos Mancilla who is New Business Director and Head of Urban Air Mobility in Latin America for multinational aerospace corporation Airbus.

Let's take a look into the future with our one-on-one with the executive here.

How would you evaluate the urban mobility situation in Latin America?


Olmos: Latin America is already very urban. More than 80% of its residence live in urban areas and forecasts are predicting that this number will be 90% soon. Although the region represents 8% of the world’s population, 11% of the top 100 most polluted cities are located there.


In terms of traffic and congestion, the extra time lost by people on average per year in São Paulo [Latin America’s largest city] is 154 hours and even worse in Rio de Janeiro where it is around 199 hours. At the same time, the number of vehicles in Brazil is 90-100 million and it keeps growing every year!


To help cities cope with this massive population growth, urban transport solutions need to safely and sustainably improve the way people get from A to B. There is a lot of work to do.


To be clear, urban air mobility is not just about developing new electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles. It’s a complex ecosystem with critical pieces including designing a safe vehicle, offering the service to passengers, designing a safe Traffic Management for Unmanned and Manned vehicles, as well as building infrastructures that integrate with existing transportation modes.


How can UAM contribute to building the smart cities of the future?


Olmos: UAM leverages the sky to better link people to cities and regions, giving them more possibilities to connect while supporting a balanced development of regions. It also brings the safety, convenience, and the joy of flying to urban communities.


Moreover, UAB enhances the coverage and reach of transportation systems with minimal land impact. It is offers a sustainable complement to existing transport modes, with no CO2 or other emissions that are linked to climate change and increased health risks.


And who should be responsible for implementing urban mobility, the private or public sector?


Olmos: It should be a cooperation between the private sector, governments, and citizens in general. Building efficient urban mobility involves technology, business models, city integration, infrastructure development, and airspace management.


What is the biggest challenge to merging UAM systems into the existing transport network in cities?


Olmos: Contributing to mobility requires understanding the urban context, adhering to the practice of territorial developments, and planning that enables sustainable and efficient urban development globally. Through urban design and planning, Airbus works with world leading experts to integrate new mobility systems that serve the needs of the broader population.


Currently, Airbus is actively exploring how UAM systems can benefit citizens by bringing this added mobility solution to cities and studying what additional infrastructure (vertiports) would be required.


By working with cities, using urban flow data, and developing powerful modelling programs, our teams can run simulations to better understand how people move around. They can then design convenient and sustainable systems that could seamlessly integrate into an existing city infrastructure.


Whether it’s designing and certifying new helipads for take-off and landing or securing capacity to charge our vehicles, infrastructure is a critical need for scaling UAM operations in cities.

First flight of the Airbus Vahana prototype (source: Airbus) 


When do you think efficient UAM networks will be operating in cities?


Olmos: It’s difficult to have exact forecast. However, by 2030, we can say that 60% of the world population will be urban. Some 80% will be in low or middle-income countries and 90% of the urban population growth is seen coming from developing countries.


To make UAM a reality, Airbus is architecting all pieces of the puzzle. Our approach includes building and bringing together all the critical components - technology, business models, city integration, infrastructure development, and airspace management – in order to take urban transport into the sky.


In doing so, we can ensure maximum societal benefits for urban communities worldwide!

CityAirbus VTOL aircraft demonstrator (source: Airbus)

Authored by: Daniel Bland