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How far are we with Urban Air Mobility (UAM) adoption in cities in 2023?


Eszter Kovacs, Co-Founder and CEO of DroneTalks, had the chance to recap this year in drones Miriam, the Editor in Chief at DroneLife, where we focused on three topics: the roles cities will play in the integration of drone operations, the implementation of new U-space airspaces and how drone organisations are finally breaking even and hitting annual finance targets. She started by providing us with a concise overview of DroneLife's decade-long presence in the sector and their active participation in Amsterdam Drone Week for the past five years before delving into the key themes of this year's conference.

Miriam highlighted the prevalence of discussions surrounding urban air mobility (UAM) and the roles various organizations are currently playing in shaping U-space infrastructure in urban settings. Although she observed that the industry remains predominantly technology-driven, there is a noticeable effort to incorporate vertiports into cities, with city stakeholders playing an active role in these initiatives.

Stakeholders are primarily concerned with questions such as: What is the value proposition? Will this generate economic benefits for the entire community? What are the potential negative consequences, and so forth? Many industry insiders firmly believe that the integration of drones will have a profoundly positive impact on cities, but a significant number of urban centres still require information and data to comprehend the advantages of incorporating drones into their transportation systems.

Explaining the value proposition of urban air mobility (UAM) to city stakeholders

We have already witnessed several cities embracing the available data and information, signalling a positive trend as these early adopters can demonstrate the value of constructing the necessary drone infrastructure. However, drone operators and manufacturers have encountered major hurdles, including operational approvals granted by civil aviation authorities (CAAs) only to be later denied by local governments or city police for various reasons. This has led to a growing realization that a holistic ecosystem must evolve, connecting all stakeholders.

Miriam emphasized the need for the drone community to effectively communicate its value proposition to stakeholders who may be unfamiliar with the industry, such as explaining how UAM can bolster first responders and emergency safety protocols during environmental disasters. She noted that, at present, some cities perceive UAM as a luxury service exclusive to the wealthy, a perception that must change in order to make progress.

To tackle this challenge, the drone community should prioritize building partnerships and engaging in open dialogues with diverse stakeholders, such as urban planners, local authorities, emergency services, and the general public. By demonstrating the wide-ranging benefits of UAM, including faster response times in emergencies, reduced traffic congestion, and potential environmental advantages, the industry can foster greater understanding and support. Additionally, showcasing success stories from early adopter cities can inspire other urban centres to embrace UAM technology and pave the way for more inclusive, efficient, and sustainable urban transportation solutions.

The introduction and implementation of U-space in 2023

One of the most significant developments in the past year has been the introduction of new U-space regulations in January 2023, which has generated considerable buzz during Amsterdam Drone Week. Implementation tenders have emerged from the civil aviation sector, with air navigation service providers (ANSPs) seeking ways to join the fray.

Miriam likened the entire process to the beloved British stop-motion claymation series, Wallace and Gromit, created by Nick Park. The show featured an eccentric, cheese-loving inventor named Wallace and his intelligent, silent canine companion, Gromit, who embarked on a series of adventures often involving quirky contraptions and comical situations. Miriam drew parallels between Wallace hurriedly laying train tracks as an approaching train loomed and the way governments are currently establishing frameworks for drone organizations to operate on.

The most exciting aspect is that organizations are now applying to become certified U-space providers, with approvals expected in the near future. Miriam acknowledged that these initial applications will likely face immense challenges, but those who follow in their footsteps will owe a debt of gratitude to the trailblazers who paved the way toward certification and approval.

Making money in the drone industry in 2023

Certification and drone operations are undoubtedly crucial; however, both Eszter and Miriam noted that it was only at this year's Amsterdam Drone Week that they heard of companies generating profits or breaking even without relying on investors or private financing.

Miriam recalled an intriguing statement made at the conference: "We are aiming to make Europe a safe and predictable place for investment in the drone industry." This remark highlights the regulators' forward-thinking approach, considering the future market from the standpoint of creating scalable revenue streams through airborne operations.

We extend our gratitude to Miriam for sharing her valuable insights and perspectives on the drone industry's ongoing development. Be sure to stay tuned for future updates on the state of the drone industry on DroneTalks, as we continue to explore the latest trends and advancements in this dynamic and rapidly evolving field.

About DroneLife

DroneLife is an online platform dedicated to providing the latest news, product releases and insights into the rapidly expanding commercial drone industry. As the commercial drone space is projected to become a multi-billion-dollar industry over the next decade, with $98.2 billion in total cumulative spending and $11.8 billion in the commercial space alone, the team at DroneLife believes that staying informed is crucial for both consumers and businesses alike.

Between now and 2024, the commercial drone industry will face various challenges related to privacy, security and regulation. They aim to keep consumers updated on all the latest developments, legal precedents and insights on major players such as DJI, FLIR, DroneDeploy, PIX4D, Simactive, Gremby and CompTIA, among others.

The team behind DroneLife includes experienced professionals from various backgrounds, including technology, marketing and journalism. Alan Phillips, the co-founder and publisher, is a serial entrepreneur and active angel investor. Harry McNabb, the CEO and Global Business Development expert and has over 20 years of experience in sales and marketing in industries such as software, real estate and the arts. Miriam McNabb, the Editor-in-Chief, enjoys observing the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for commercial drones. Frank Schroth, the Editor Emeritus, has over 20 years of experience in defining, launching and maintaining information products and services. Lastly, Jason Reagan, the News Contributor, is a freelance journalist with 18 years of combined experience in communications, news, marketing, and copywriting.

About Miriam McNabb

Miriam McNabb is known for being a passionate advocate for commercial drones and often writes about the benefits of drone technology in DroneLife. As the CEO of JobForDrones, an online commercial drone marketplace, and Editor in Chief at DroneLife.com, she shares stories about the future of the drone industry explosion and the good that drones can do. Based in the Greater Boston Area, Miriam has been the Editor in Chief at DroneLife.com for over 5 years, after serving as a contributing editor for 4 years.

In addition to her work in the drone industry, Miriam is a member of the Board of Directors for IC Haiti, a non-profit organization she co-founded 9 years ago to help provide healthcare and education for Haiti. She is also the Principal of Spalding Barker Strategies, a strategic consulting firm that offers services to emerging technology businesses. With over twenty years of experience in high-tech sales, Miriam specialises in developing go-to-market and sales strategies including demand creation, lead generation, branding, and market differentiation.

Miriam holds a degree from the University of Chicago and has worked in various industries such as finance, software, research and non-profit. As a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for commercial drones, Miriam is a frequent international speaker at drone industry events and writes for DroneLife on current news, financial trends and FAA regulations.

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