UAM ‘must incorporate the needs of disabled citizens’: White Paper
Disabled flying charity Aerobility and trade association The Civic Air Transport Association (CIVATAglobal) have released a White Paper calling for the inclusion of disabled groups in the early planning stages of urban and advanced air mobility operations (UAM/AAM).
Figures from Roland Berger estimate there will be 160,000 commercial air taxis, generating revenue of $90bn per year, in the air by 2050. If the promise – and full market value – of AAM and UAM systems are to be fully realised, said the White Paper, it must be done on the basis of inclusivity.
“From the outset, UAM/AAM services must be planned with the needs of those who stand to benefit most from its introduction in mind – disabled communities,” said Mike Miller-Smith, CEO of Aerobility.
“Once beyond prototype stage, autonomous air vehicle design will need to develop in ways that enable their use by visually impaired passengers and those requiring wheel-chair access for example, just as has been done and is required on many other urban transport networks. Much to the detriment of those living with disability, we have learnt the hard and expensive way, that this will be much more difficult to achieve if not incorporated early,” he added.
The paper states that around 10% of the world’s population faces major mobility impairment challenges. “UAM is now the single biggest opportunity to transform mobility options for people who struggle daily with currently inaccessible ground transport services,” it said.
According to the White Paper these are key areas which need to be addressed:
1. Ensuring developers of UAM ground infrastructure and platforms fully take into account the needs of disabled passengers – and the non-travelling public – in considering issues of access
2. Aviation safety regulators must take account of the needs of people with reduced mobility in their regulations
3. In smart city programmes where autonomous vehicles are being planned (air and ground), it is vital that disabled community groups are incorporated into the earliest planning. Before eVTOLs are flying in our cities, they will have to be given not just an aviation safety regulator’s certificate to fly but a licence from the communities they will be serving.
4. A repository of best practices from around the world needs to be launched so developers can understand not just the basic principles but the detailed engineering solutions.
Andrew Charlton, director general of CIVATAglobal said: “Our two organisations are now also calling for UAM plans to include representatives of disability groups at the earliest possible stage in the process. We want to get best-practice in accessibility built into the early development and DNA of the industry, so that those with most to gain are not left behind.”