Third dimension as fundamental to transportation as to vision

so it will take vision to realize the awesome potential for eVTOL’s,  Flying Taxis, and Drones to revolutionize Urban Air Mobility

(by Bill Stremmel) Access to Playa La Barqueta on the Pacific Coast of Chiriqui Province in the Republic of Panama is not great.  The road through Guarumal and other hamlets is paved.  But it is narrow and rather crooked, with many driveways and intersections.  The trip from the airport or central David can take between 20 minutes to a half-hour, depending on whether the motorist is held up behind slow-moving agricultural machinery.  Frustration is certain to mount as more of the beachfront properties are developed and more people from the rapidly growing provincial capital venture out for vacations, holidays, and weekend parties. 

In a country with ample rural land the solution would be straightforward: Widen and straighten the road.  But Panama is a country where land is a precious resource. The isthmus is less than 100 miles wide in most places, it is bisected by a rugged spine of volcanoes and mountainous highlands, and thanks to dense tropical jungles is one of only three countries on earth that remains a net carbon sink despite a thriving economy.  The lowlands are a rich agricultural resource so subtracting even a few square meters performing photosynthesis and carbon sequestration has a severe ecological cost.  It would also take a direct human toll as there is much casual life taking place at roadside establishments and introducing more vehicles traveling at a higher speed would place life and limb at risk.

What to do?  Advancements in short-range electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft can un-tether transportation from surface infrastructure.   Airborne conveyances provide direct-to-destination service which can rival the convenience of drop-off at the front door once roofs are fitted with landing pads. 

See these articles from 2022 issues of The Economist and Financial Times:

Air taxis: flight of fantasy or truly set for lift off?

Flying cars have moved closer to reality as billions pour into ‘urban air mobility’

JANUARY 31, 2022                                                                                             .…… and also this article in Bloomberg:

No, Really, Flying Taxis Are Getting Close to Takeoff

by Christopher Jasper

Billions of dollars have flowed into companies working to change “eVTOLs” from a gimmick to a standard mode of transportation.

And the June 7, 2022 edition of SMART CITIES DIVE summarizd a report by Deloitte with a scenario of EVTOL’s performing an integral role in ride-hailing and ride-sharing service within and between cities by the 2030’s.

EVTOL aircraft could become common in cities in the 2030s: Deloitte | Smart Cities Dive

An earlier story in Bloomberg from December, 2020 described an initiative taken by the City of Los Angeles promoting urban air vehicles (UAV’s) as part of an overall strategy known as “Urban Air Mobility” (UAM):

To quote LADOT’s Director Seleta Reynolds:

As we think about the public space on the ground, those streets and those sidewalks, it’s now time for us to think in three or four dimensions and consider public space over our heads… How is this change going to enable cities to solve some of these challenges that we’re dealing with on the ground, and how can we make sure that we do not repeat some of the same mistakes that our foremothers and forefathers made when they laid out the ground transportation system.”

The key word is ‘dimensions’.  Opening up the skies means that cities are freed of all of the right-of-way limitations, existing utilities which cannot be disrupted, unavoidable impacts, knee-jerk NIMBY opposition, and other impediments which have increasingly stymied transportation improvements.  Aerial tramways and gondolas and ski lift-type systems were actually a huge step in this direction because the pylon supporting the cable is the only disturbance that needs to be in the ground, but dispensing with that allows planners and property developers to now focus on landing pads for the plethora of flying machines on the horizon.