On Tuesday, Airbus and Ecocopter announced they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the launch of urban air mobility services across the Latin American region, particularly in Ecuador, Chile, and Peru. Ecocopter is a company with a fleet of Airbus helicopters performing several missions ranging from offshore transport to firefighting, and Airbus has developed the eVTOL prototype CityAirbus NextGen.
Developing air mobility services
Several companies have shown their interest in developing urban air mobility (UAM) services in Latin America. For instance, Embraer’s Eve and Avantto announced last year their partnership to create a UAM ecosystem in Brazil. Prior to the pandemic, Airbus briefly launched Voom, a helicopter seat rental service, in São Paulo and Mexico City, which helped to provide a large database of data related to UAM.
Now Airbus and Ecocopter have launched a partnership that “will explore and define launch scenarios for air mobility operations,” said the companies in a statement. Their activities will include the development of UAM operations over the continent, as well as finding ways to target first use cases and pilot cities and regions. Marcelo Rajchman, Ecocopter’s Corporate CEO, said,
“With already 20 years of experience operating helicopters and five years operating drones, this partnership is a natural step for us. We seek to be a relevant player in the UAM ecosystem and the projects we will develop together with Airbus will bring us closer to this goal.”
Meanwhile, Balkiz Sarihan, Airbus’ Head of Partnerships & Strategy Execution for UAM added that both companies are taking concrete steps in the creation of the UAM ecosystem. This partnership will leverage Airbus’ expertise in vertical flight technologies and Ecocopter’s extensive operational history.
Last year, Airbus unveiled its electric Vertical Take Off and Landing prototype CityAirbus NextGen. This aircraft is Airbus’ bet on a hot market that has developments from every major OEM and new startups such as Vertical Aerospace, Lilium, and more.
The CityAirbus NextGen will have an operational range of 80 km and a cruise speed of 120 km/h. It has been developed to be suited for a range of deployments in urban areas and beyond. Airbus is currently building a dedicated center to test the eVTOL’s systems in the lead up to its maiden flight.
Airbus wants to develop an UAM in Latin America. Photo: Airbus.
Why Latin America?
The Latin American region is of crucial importance for the development of the eVTOL technology. This region is one of the most important markets for the helicopter segment, plus the poor ground infrastructure in major cities, which often lead to heavy traffic is an area of opportunity for the development of UAM and air taxis.
Last year, Paul Malicki, Flapper’s CEO, said that six out of the ten largest urban helicopter fleets are in Latin America. The region has one of the densest helicopter infrastructure in the world. Nonetheless, the introduction of eVTOL and an UAM ecosystem is still a long way to go, and requires from the development of technology and regional policy that makes these services secure for people on the ground and in the sky.
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