Tomorrow’s Aviation

Imagine a sustainable, optimized, and safe airspace where people and goods travel effortlessly in both manned and unmanned vehicles; a system maximized to its fullest potential, promoting social welfare and economic growth. This could be true and attainable in the near future.

Our vision for Sweden 2045, is to have a nationwide fossil-free air transportation network above both our cities and rural areas for transporting people and goods. Almost all vehicles will consist of either electric or hydrogen-powered aircrafts and drones that efficiently fly in well-defined corridors, the lower air space. This extensive transportation network will be supplemented by regional fossil-free flights. Fossil-free, fast, simple, convenient and cost-effective transports have already become a reality. Today there are freight drones that can transport loads up to a ton and getting around by drone taxi has become a reality, by 2045 everyone throughout Sweden can live in a society where everything is only 15 minutes away.

In order to realize this vision, several measures in different areas are required. In many regards, the transformation is all about disruptive innovation which requires that we radically reconsider what we think we know and our existing ways of working. The development must henceforth take place in a coordinated manner within six application areas simultaneously:


1) The transport and infrastructure planning process. The lower air space must be included from a climate point of view to enable short- to mid-range flights as well as the necessary surrounding infrastructure.

2) Review and harmonization of laws, regulations and certifications, in order to level the playing field for all parts as well as be transparent and credible towards the passengers and users.

3) Increased government cooperation as a step in democratizing lower airspace transportation.
 
4) Development of new digital tools and planning processes, enabling an integrated society beyond just transportation.

5) A wider pool of expertise and a greater understanding of drone technology, its meaning, and possibilities.

6) Continued research on the various elements included in the future fossil-free transportation system, as progress is continuous and swift in this developing field.

The air transportation industry has for a long time played a key part in boosting globalization and economic growth but due to its environmental impact, the industry needs to reduce its emissions, look beyond the pandemic and adapt according to the Paris agreement. To achieve the goal of the Paris agreement – limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius – a major societal transformation is required. Through the European Green Deal and other initiatives, the EU will be transformed into a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy by 2050 where:
1) There are net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases
2) Economic growth has been decoupled from resource consumption
3) No people or places are left out

Adapting to the climate change will not be a walk in the park and we see two main challenges. The first challenge is phasing out fossil energy and streamlining resource use. The second is about building resilience, which relates to the already nonreversible effects of global warming. Consequently, we are facing a fundamental paradigm shift that will affect our lifestyle in the coming decades where a 150-year carbon dependence will come to an end. This paradigm shift will create opportunities for fossil-free air transportation and allow drones to truly become a disruptive change for the better good. The development and commercialization of electric and hydrogen-powered drones in the coming decade is therefore inevitable as it will support the mitigation of emissions. Fully developed, this technology will eliminate operational emissions and make biofuels redundant. However, the entire Advance Air Mobility (AAM) infrastructure and sustainable production capacity must increase at a rapid pace to quickly enable this transformation, spanning from electricity generation and transmission, charging facilities, take-off and landing pads as well as enhanced telecommunications infrastructure to mention a few. This fossil-free transformation will also require governmental support through subsidies and incentives, as well as private investments, both within AAM and in our society.

The future aviation industry, and the advancement of drones into society, will have a huge impact on both land and airborne infrastructure. Fossil-free drones operating in the lower airspace will hence lead to a faster conversion to a climate-efficient and sustainable society. This will also build resilience where the infrastructure is weak today. The future development of AAM will develop across three different areas; technologically, innovatively and structurally.

Drone transports, i.e., the use and development of the lower airspace as part of a future sustainable and fossil-free transport system, have so far not received sufficient attention. It is therefore important and timely to accommodate the lower airspace as a given element in the infrastructure planning process, in regional development strategies, county transportation plans, and finally municipal master plans.

Conditions must be improved within physical planning, mainly at the municipal level, in order to establish the required infrastructure. The goal is to facilitate the use of the lower airspace in a democratic, optimal and safe way. Municipalities should thus establish a new planning area through vertical delimitation of the lower airspace according to the Planning and Building Act and the Property Development Act.

Today, digital tools are available that facilitate the planning of the lower airspace and provide opportunities to clearly report the boundaries that need to be made. However, these tools can be further developed, for example by simulating flight corridors.

There is a great demand for drone services and AAM is predicted to be the next large-scale disruptor within the mobility area. The AAM market is expected to grow by 25.9% annually, from $ 3.10 billion in 2023 to $ 15.54 billion by 2030. It is estimated that about 300 different companies are trying to build the new “flying car”, an electric VTOL aircraft (Vertical Take Off and Landing) for the coming revolution. A likely industry strategy seems to be an iterative strategy, e.g., through establishing pilot projects and large-scale simulations.

This rapid development emphasizes the need for new certifications and regulations, otherwise, it is a large risk that the implementation of electric aircraft and drones could be delayed and/or become more expensive than necessary. Precise regulations will also help clarify the roles and responsibilities of different industry actors.

The opportunities are enormous, but time is of the essence and action is needed now. Sweden has an outstanding track-record in facilitating rapid industry developments, from heavy machinery to information technology and digital solutions. We hope that the possibilities within Advanced Air Mobility are grasped and put to its full potential – especially in such a vast and sparsely populated country as Sweden.

This is the executive summery for the report ” Tomorrow’s Aviation ” that IBG has been commissioned by Transportföretagen to write. The report focuses on the Swedish market and is therefore written in Swedish.

Read the report

Picture: Heart Aviation