Within the next five years, the aircraft manufacturer Airbus plans to launch a prototype for a self-driving flying taxi on the market. However, the market dynamics are extremely high, as shown by the current study "Urban Air Mobility" by management consultants Horváth & Partners. The Airbus prototype might be too late. "As early as 2025, air taxis in large cities will transport passengers on the first fixed routes," predicts Dr. Daniel Guffarth, study director and mobility expert at Horváth & Partners. Autonomous flying and autonomous driving will be available in parallel in the future to end customers as new modes of transport. According to the study's authors, this also applies to the German market.
Although there are strict safety requirements for airspace in Germany, air traffic is much easier to control since, unlike on the roads, there is no public or private traffic. In addition, analyses by Horváth & Partners show that the population's acceptance is higher for self-flying passenger drones than for self-driving cars. The experts attribute this to the fact that in recent times, many negative reports about risks, accidents during pilot tests, and ethical issues in connection with self-propelled cars have aroused fears. Autonomous flying, on the other hand, was regarded as a vision of the future until recently. "Test routes for air taxis are being set up in numerous cities worldwide. As soon as the first pilot projects are successful, Germany's politics will also open up to test routes and operating routes and adapt the imposed restrictions, which are mainly aimed at hobby drones," predicts Guffarth.
In 2035, passenger transport by air taxis will become a service ready for the end customer
In the initial phase of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) starting in 2025, air taxis will be established in megacities with ten million inhabitants or metropolitan regions with this population density. In Germany, pilot routes could prevail on heavily used commuter routes, for example in the Rhine-Ruhr region. In general, in addition to inner city mobility, city-rural or city-city connections are also highly relevant in Germany for relieving commuter traffic. A large number of the 2,000 traffic jams per day – a new record from 2018 as a whole – are due to commuter traffic.
In a second phase starting in 2035, UAM will establish itself worldwide as a mobility service, with regular routes for the transport of several people per capsule in almost every metropolis. According to calculations by Horváth & Partners, air taxis will already be in the air for 125 million hours by 2035. According to the study, by 2050, when local public transport with air taxis will be normal even in smaller cities with up to 600,000 inhabitants, flying hours will increase to nine billion hours.
The population prefers car manufacturers as suppliers
The battle for supremacy in the billion-dollar urban air mobility market is in full swing, but far from over. Companies from various industries report successful maiden flights every week. Audi and Airbus have jointly developed a modular flying car, Daimler is involved in the pioneer startup Volocopter, and the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing's Urban Air Vehicle has recently mastered its first test flight. The cooperation between Airbus and Audi is particularly promising. As the Horváth & Partners study shows, the population prefers automobile manufacturers to aviation companies as providers of air taxis. "Automobile manufacturers score points through brand recognition, customer proximity and widespread positive experience regarding quality and safety. German premium manufacturers in particular have an advantage of trust in this respect," says Guffarth. In the long term, autonomous driving and autonomous flying will in any case merge into an overall market of "autonomous mobility," according to the expert, since providers will present transport from A to B to the customer as an integrated mobility offer. Market participants with good long-term prospects of success therefore ideally need a foothold in both areas – another plus for the automotive industry, which has been dealing with new demands for urban mobility for some time due to high market pressure.
Flight booking and services offer the most profitable business
As much as the focus is currently on technology, it will not earn the most in the future UAM market. According to experts from Horváth & Partners, the production of air taxis will account for only five percent of the total market, with operations accounting for a maximum of one third. Flight booking and accompanying services will account for the lion's share, 55 percent. Such additional services range from catering, entertainment or relaxation offers within the flight capsules to transportation to or from the air-taxi stops and digital shopping options on the flight.
"In the premium segment, that is, individual transport in comfortably equipped capsules, German automobile manufacturers have good prospects thanks to their customer base, but also in the booking business, especially in Europe," says Horváth expert Daniel Guffarth. In addition to Asia with Oceania and the USA, the market potential for Urban Air Mobility is also above average in Europe, as the Horváth study shows. "In global mass business, however, a global technology group with an advertising-financed platform is likely to prevail."
About the study: Experts from Horváth & Partners conducted classic market analyses, digital sentiment analyses based on artificial intelligence, and qualitative expert interviews for the study "Urban Air Mobility – Business Between Sky and Earth."