Mobility Aug 27, 2018

“Urban air mobility” research initiative: Ingolstadt is advertising itself as a model region for air taxis

Air taxis are supposed to help solve traffic problems in European cities soon. What sounds like a vision from science fiction, is actually the declared aim of a European Commission research initiative called “Urban air mobility”. Suitable concepts and technologies for personal air transport are to be researched and developed as part of the initiative. The Ingolstadt city region could serve as the test area for this in the future.

Ingolstadt as pilot city for digital/autonomous mobility

Ingolstadt and its region are developing more and more into a centre for the research and testing of mobility solutions. Important players in this field are, for example, locally based companies Audi and Airbus as well as the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the Technische Hochschule with its research centre Carissma. The establishment of the Fraunhofer Applied Research Centre for Connected Mobility, the addition of the Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt to the Artificial Intelligence research network and the “Erste Meile” test track for autonomous driving round off this unique profile in Europe.

An ideal test area

As a result of its high traffic volume and large population density Ingolstadt is an ideal test area. Another plus for the region is its geographically central location not far from the metropolises Munich and Nuremberg and the large cities of Augsburg and Regensburg. Munich and Nuremberg airports are also not far away. In addition, Bavaria provides the best conditions for the set-up due to the many highly innovative SMEs and corporations. There are also a range of Bavarian start-ups with companies like Ascending Technologies, Lillium and Quantum Systems, which are setting new standards with innovations in the field of drone technology and microlight aircraft.

Support by the federal state

Bavaria’s Minister of Economics and Technology Franz Josef Pschierer therefore recognises the pioneering role that Ingolstadt is assuming in this area: “With this Bavaria is not just taking the lead in Germany but also in a European context again when it comes to driving forward transport facilities in the third dimension, namely in the air.” A supra-regional air taxi test area around Ingolstadt, Manching and the surrounding area is to give companies the chance to further develop their air taxi technology. Even though the exact outline of the test area is not final yet, it already has a name: “Manching-Ingolstadt plus”.

What is “urban air mobility” all about?

What has been working on short and long-haul flights between continents, countries and cities with millions of passengers for a long time, has not been possible on short-distance flights within cities or regions so far. Whether this has been due to a lack of technology, ecology, economic viability or unclear safety and legal issues, urban airspace has been taboo for short-distance flights to date. This is about to change: newly developed, environmentally-friendly electric drives, powerful batteries with extremely short charging times, minimum space requirements for take-off and landing strips, fast computers and big data are providing the necessary requirements to practically tackle “urban air mobility” within and between cities. What is already reality in Dubai today, is supposed to be possible in Europe in the next decade too: being picked up by air taxi.

Air taxis, medical transportation and traffic monitoring

Mobility experts are assuming that there will be other application areas first though before the aircraft can be used to transport normal citizens. For example, flights to monitor urban traffic jams, transport urgent emergency medical supplies like blood reserves, defibrillators or medicine are conceivable. And in the not too distant future, an air taxi should be able to quickly transport a paramedic to an emergency without any traffic jams. Personal passenger transport in urban air space would not be far off from there at all.

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