Revolution.Aero’s The week in focus: Drones dominate press coverage
For those of us old enough to remember, it’s almost as if The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times or The New York Times were trying to tell their readers which of Ford, Buick, Chrysler or even Rolls-Royce would dominate the automobile market back at the start of the Roaring Twenties.
These days, a century and a host of technological leaps later, a slew of news outlets is slugging it out, at a price, to tell readers much the same thing about a new generation of drones. And many of the putative winners being picked seem to be those that have been attracting the most investment dollars these past few weeks and months.
Let’s start with latest breathless reports from the likes of Commercial Drone Professional, Safehaven, Weekly Wall and others on the “billions” that are predicted to be flooding into the drone market this year and in the next few to come. The first tells its readers that spending on drones will “smash $16bn” this year ($16.3bn to be precise). The other two underscore the prediction. Most (90%) of the spending dollars will, it is suggested, be destined for the purchase of consumer drones, after-market sensors, and service drones.
But the future – as became the case with Ford., General Motors and Chrysler over the decades – would seem to lie in mass-production of affordable personal transportation. Meanwhile, the bureaucrats are at work, all in the name of safety of course. Back to Commercial Drone Professional and its report that London’s Heathrow Airport has installed a bespoke anti-drone system made by Operational Systems – and that’s just a few months since the panic of when drones were suspected of flying within the UK airport’s safety perimeter. In December Commercial Drone Professional also reported that three US government agencies were deploying drone-protection systems developed by Citadel Defense in the States.
Understandably, perhaps, Chinese drone-maker EHang is unhappy with the decision by America’s Department of the Interior to ground 800 or so of the department’s drones, specifically those made in China. In the meantime, UASWeekly.com, CGTN and others report that EHang has published a so-called White Paper on urban air mobility and, particularly, drone safety. Remember, Bridget Driscol’s death under the wheels of an automobile travelling at 4mph in 1896 didn’t create so much as a hiccup in the growth of autonomous surface transportation. But let’s move on.
The EHang paper is worth reading for its pointers as to where the market is heading and what will be needed to ensure the sector’s safety.
So, where’s the smart money going? Hitting the latest headlines are the reports by The Financial Times, Flight Global, Morning Brew, Commercial Drone Professional, Silicon Angle and more others than one might count on Joby Aviation’s raising $590m in its latest funding round to develop eVTOLs. Three quarters of the total has come from Toyota, an indication perhaps that the automaker believes it sees where transportation’s future lies.
Joby is not the only one being favoured with other people’s millions. Take a look at the reports by gizmotable.com, researchsnipers.com and others about Uber’s teaming up with Hyundai to develop an electric air taxi. Hyundai is the eighth firm Uber has joined in the venture. And they are not the only ones – the big bucks seem to be available from the world’s automakers for any start-up with a good story to tell.
Let’s wrap up with the report by Aviation Today of the Federal Aviation Administration Jay Merkle telling a government meeting in Orlando that half a dozen aircraft intended for urban air mobility application are “well along” in pursuing FAA type certification. The future, it seems, is arriving faster than many might have expected.
Meanwhile, urban air mobility and VTOLS will feature in Helicopter Investor’s London 2020 conference at the Royal Garden Hotel on February 25th and 26th. Read the full agenda here and booking details here.