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​Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) is a term coined by NASA to describe the application of electric propulsion systems to aircraft including vertical take off and landing (VTOL) and conventional or short take off and landing (CTOL/STOL).  Advances in electric motors and energy density of batteries has led to a time where electric propulsion systems are advanced enough for aircraft operation.  The general trend is to use multiple electric motors leading to a Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) as applied to either VTOL or CTOL/STOL aircraft giving us eVTOL and eSTOL/eCTOL.

The opportunity presented via electric propulsion is that we can develop a distributed aviation system that allows us to make the best use of existing aviation infrastructure while still increasing regional connectivity leading to increased economic benefit.  The evolution of a distributed aviation system is set out below:

  • Electric propulsion will disrupt the current sub regional aviation system that will lead to a future of distributed aviation.

  • Electric low-cost sub regional airlines (eLCCs) will operate on thinner routes enabled by lower capital, operating and maintenance cost of electric propulsion systems. 

  • A quantity of sub-regional traffic will distribute away from the current hub and spoke system of airports (international & regional airports) to secondary and smaller airports. 

  • eLCCs will operate out of secondary and general aviation airports due to their lower charges, available capacity, and closer proximity to markets which are viable even though they are uneconomic for hydrocarbon powered airlines. 

  • Fixed wing electric aircraft will take passengers over longer distances where passengers will transfer onto either local transportation services or an eVTOL for access into large urban environments.  As technology permits direct city centre to city centre eVTOL operations will be established.

  • A distributed electric aviation system offers lower cost sub-regional flights closer to passengers’ origins and destinations while helping reduce the carbon impact of travel.  Additionally, the development of electric sub regional flights allows for more Sustainable Aviation Fuels to be used on longer haul flights where there is more benefit from its use.

  • Larger international airports may lose some domestic traffic but gain in terms of a reduction in the number of smaller less profitable routes which can be replaced with long haul international flights whilst still maintaining regional connectivity.  This has the potential to make the best use of our existing hub airports and their precious runway slots whilst still accommodating growth.

  • As electric aviation technologies develop, they will enable larger aircraft, they will be incorporated into our well-established aviation system helping the UK to meet its carbon commitments.

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