AAM: Getting cleared for take-off


Following years of unprecedented disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the aviation industry is experiencing a doubling down of efforts to bring next-generation transportation technologies to market. The world’s sense of climate urgency is also pushing the industry to demonstrate leadership in greening the world’s transportation networks. For many, Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) represents an exciting new frontier and sustainable path forward for the aviation industry, which still has its fair share of challenges ahead.

AAM is an umbrella term describing the next generation of air transportation of cargo and people using emerging technologies, such as unmanned aerial systems and electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, in both urban and remote environments. AAM has been present in various forms for a number of years, but the potential of its commercial applications has not been explored with such exigency or enthusiasm until recently.

The beauty of these AAM machines is that they are multifaceted and well-timed to meet environmental social governance (ESG) compliance and carbon-zero footprint goals, as many are designed to have zero operational emissions. The potential to revolutionize the way people and property are transported is fascinating.

What Does the Global Regulatory Landscape for AAM Look Like?

While flying vehicles have long been a mere fantasy of the distant future, in reality, the use of such vehicles may not be too far away. Across the world, civil aviation authorities have been actively developing and considering the introduction of AAM in their respective jurisdictions for more than 10 years. It has only been in the last five years, however, that the market has seen significant progress made in the regulatory landscape for AAM. The progress made with many of the world’s leading civil aviation authorities means that we expect AAM aircraft to be fully regulated and operational by the end of the decade, if not significantly earlier.

Not unlike the approach taken for drones, the national civil aviation authorities have looked to integrate AAM aircraft into the existing overarching aircraft regulatory framework accompanied by special conditions to account for the novelty of this technology. Below is a high-level summary of some of the most recent regulatory activities in major aviation markets.


The EU has pioneered the way forward in AAM regulations and can be considered one of the leaders in its field, working actively with industry and other regulators to build a legal framework for the operation of AAM aircraft. In June 2019, the European Union Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) became the first in the world to publish a special condition under the existing regulatory framework that sets forth the prerequisites for the type certification of small eVTOL aircraft operations (EASA Special Condition). Concurrently, EASA has been developing guidelines for pilots of AAM aircraft, their operators and the associated infrastructure (e.g., vertiports).

This work has culminated in draft regulations that are scheduled to be delivered to the European Commission for discussion and ratification in the latter part of 2023. The regulatory package will cover a range of regulatory requirements, including air operations, pilot licensing, air traffic management integration, airworthiness and development of infrastructure, which are all critical components to the future of this game-changing technology.


In 2022, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) elected to adopt the EASA Special Condition as the basis for certification of eVTOL aircraft in the United Kingdom. Under the CAA regulations, special conditions are detailed technical specifications prescribed by the CAA for a product where the related current certification specifications do not contain adequate or appropriate safety standards for that product. Special conditions are often necessary when the product has novel or unusual design features or incorporates new and advanced technologies for which current certification specifications are not appropriate.

The CAA is now preparing additional Means of Compliance documentation to aid and provide guidance to OEMs that are intending to enter the CAA’s certification process for eVTOL aircraft in the United Kingdom. It is expected that the CAA will continue to follow EASA’s lead in relation to regulation and certification processes for AAM aircraft.

United States

In May 2022, the FAA substantially changed its original plan to certify winged eVTOL aircraft as small airplanes, instead announcing a proposal to require the aircraft to be certified as ‘powered-lift’ operations. This proposal became final on July 26, 2023. Many in the industry view this as a drastic 180-degree change by the FAA, after more than a decade of the FAA signaling its intention to certify eVTOLs as small airplanes. Notably, the FAA has not certified any aircraft as powered-lift previously. The FAA has explained the about-face as necessary because, in its view, it became apparent that eVTOLs could not easily be certified or operated under the small airplane regulations as airplanes do not take off vertically or have a transition-to-flight process. Nonetheless, the industry appears to be committed to the new certification path. The four leading companies seeking FAA certification are Archer, Beta, Joby and Volocopter. In November 2022, the FAA published proposed airworthiness criteria for a Joby eVTOL model, and in December 2022, the agency published criteria for Archer’s eVTOL model. The leading companies are seeking entry into service (EIS) by 2024 or 2025, which is an aggressive timeline, given the FAA’s often lengthy certification program.

Over the past few months, the FAA has released several documents related to eVTOLs. In May, the FAA released an updated blueprint for AAM operations. In June, the FAA issued a proposed regulation for training and certification of powered-lift pilots, aligning with its decision to certify winged eVTOLs as powered-lift operations. And, in July, the FAA released an AAM Implementation Plan identifying steps the FAA and industry must take for AAM operations to be at scale at one or more sites by 2028. The FAA states that it is committed to making steady progress certifying eVTOL aircraft and pilots, planning for the integration of eVTOLs into the airspace, and collaborating internationally.

Of note, in July, the FAA issued a special airworthiness certificate to a flying electric car, manufactured by Alef Automotive. This flying electric car has differentiated itself in the market because of its ability to drive on public roads for up to 200 miles and launch vertically in the air, with a range of 110 miles. The certification from the FAA will allow Alef Automotive to test the vehicle on roads and in the air.


The Japanese government has shown a great deal of interest in developing a legal regime for the operation of AAM aircraft, with the targeted launch by 2025, all as outlined in a joint report prepared in 2021 by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

Currently in Japan, eVTOL aircraft falls under the general category of ‘aircraft’ in the Civil Aeronautics Act in Japan. This means that AAM operations are highly likely to be subject to the strict regulations set forth by the Civil Aeronautics Act and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau (JCAB). If regulations under the Civil Aeronautics Act are to apply to AAM aircraft, they will be subject to the full spectrum of regulations, including airframe permits, pilot permits, safety equipment permits, take-off and landing permits, and permits for flights at or below a minimum safety altitude.

MLIT and METI continue to discuss the best means to regulate AAM aircraft in Japan. In the short term, type certification for AAM aircraft will be based on special conditions developed specifically for AAM aircraft. In the mid- to long-term, common special conditions for eVTOL aircraft and other types of aircraft will be developed, and new airworthiness categories will be formulated. Earlier this year, JCAB accepted its first application for a certification of eVOTL aircraft to be operated in Japan. That application is, in fact, being concurrently reviewed by the EASA.

Japan is also looking abroad to work with other jurisdictions to develop its AAM regulatory framework. As one example, in 2022, the FAA and JCAB signed a Declaration of Cooperation to support future AAM aircraft development and operations in Japan and the United States.

Key Issues for Stakeholders Going Forward

The key focus right now for all industry stakeholders is keeping watch on the fast-shifting regulatory landscape. Major civil aviation authorities are racing to adopt a working regulatory framework that will support the operation of AAM aircraft and to capture the commercial potential of this emerging market. Efforts to develop a harmonized certification system that could be rolled out worldwide is another challenge that is currently under the umbrella of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). In November 2022, the ICAO Commission began terms of reference for the AAM working group after receiving direction from all member states present at the ICAO Assembly. Developments like this are a positive indicator that streamlined global regulations could be available to this emerging technology before long.