The U.S. Transportation Department’s Office of Inspector General told on Monday it will review progress by regulators in establishing the basis for certifying lower-altitude aircraft known as “flying taxis.”
While interest in Urban Air Mobility, or highly automated aircraft that can be operated for passengers and cargo and are designed to work in populated places, has increased substantially, it makes “new and complex security challenges” for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is now reviewing applications for certifying eVTOL aircraft, the watchdog told.
Aviation includes electric vertical takeoff and landing, or eVTOL, aircraft, which use electrical propulsion to take off, approach, and land vertically. The aircraft generally carry only a few passengers per pilot.
Federal aviation administration
The FAA told it “will cooperate fully with the Office of the Inspector General’s audit and looks forward to providing a statement about our extensive safety work in this place.”
In highlighting the challenges for the FAA, the inspector general’s office reported that the existing regulation for aircraft certification that is being operated is “still primarily intended for a traditional small plane with a pilot on board, whereas eVTOL aircraft may be entirely independent.”
- Well-established aviation and automotive manufacturers like Boeing, Embraer, Airbus, United Airlines, Toyota Motor Corp, and Stellantis are among companies pouring funds into the nascent eVTOL sector.
Morgan Stanley analysts last year estimated the potential demand for eVTOLs could be worth $1 trillion by 2040, assuming favorable regulatory developments.
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UK civil aviation authorities
But they said regulatory risks were one of the most underestimated for the sector given strict security provisions, specifically for working in dense urban environments, as well as noise and pollution concerns.
The FAA told last week the agency and UK civil aviation authorities have a range of discussions “focused on facilitating certification and validating new eVTOL aircraft, production, continued airworthiness, operations, and personnel licensing.”
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