The first cities where drones could ferry people to and fro are the nation’s largest and most-congested — places like Los Angeles. But a new research center at Georgia Tech aims to answer the key questions about what’s called urban and regional air mobility, and turn Atlanta into a test bed for the emerging technology along the way.
“We are trying to understand different factors that will help adoption, or the barriers for urban air mobility taxi service in Atlanta,” School of Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Laurie Garrow told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently.
Garrow is leading a survey in Atlanta and elsewhere to assess people’s demand for air taxis when they have to commute about 30 minutes. It’s one of the areas where Garrow and aerospace engineering professor Brian German hope to begin to unravel the complex issues around airborne urban transportation with their new Center for Urban and Regional Air Mobility.
Yet there are staggering hurdles, ranging from cost to safety, noise, public acceptance, regulations, space for vertiports, and questions about who would pay for and who would control the infrastructure for such transportation.
In metro Atlanta, discussion about the technology’s future has already begun.
Georgia Tech this year created a Center for Urban and Regional Air Mobility to explore the development of aircraft for transportation in densely populated urban areas. Professors leading the effort held an urban air mobility workshop in Atlanta in January. Three months later, national industry publication Aviation Week held an urban air mobility conference at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“We’re entering this era in large cities where we’re facing intense gridlock and it’s just getting worse,” said Mark Moore, engineering director of Uber’s urban air mobility unit Uber Elevate, at the Georgia Tech conference.