As the CEO and Head of UAM at Airbus, Balkiz Sahiran leads a dedicated business unit focused on advancing the field of urban air mobility. TheAirbus teams working on UAM are spearheading the transformation of how people will move within cities, aiming to make transportation more efficient, fully electric , and accessible for everyone.
Airbus's strategic vision for advanced air mobility is centered around the concept of seamless urban air mobility, where electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles operate as an integral part of the urban transportation network. The Company’s focus extends beyond the development of aircraft, encompassing the entire ecosystem necessary for a successful urban air mobility system. This includes infrastructure, airspace management, operational models, and regulatory frameworks. “Additionally, Airbus has made significant investments in various propulsion and battery technologies, spanning across our product range”, Sahiran told Amsterdam Drone Week. “, It's crucial to consider the entire value chain, as having a visually appealing and low carbon battery-powered vehicle is not enough. Without supporting infrastructure, it runs the risk of being merely an expensive exhibit within the industry. Numerous ongoing developments necessitate contemplating the support and service model. We explore ways to ensure the operational viability and profitability of these vehicles from a business standpoint. This involves understanding how we can generate revenue, as well as identifying opportunities for infrastructure players and operators to thrive. Our ultimate goal is to establish a thriving industry and realize the exciting potential of electric flight.”
Sahiran recognizes that true progress in urban air mobility requires collaboration and partnerships. To this endAirbus actively engages with stakeholders across the aviation, transportation, and urban planning sectors to create an inclusive and sustainable future for urban mobility. By fostering strong relationships with helicopter operators, airlines, regulatory bodies, and technology providers, Sahiran ensures Airbus remains at the forefront of this transformative industry.
“Airbus, as a company, does not operate any of our current aircraft”, she explains. “Therefore, we seek partnerships with helicopter operators and airlines, as they are the ones who will ultimately operate these aircraft, depending on the mission they serve. Moving further along the chain, as these aircraft transition towards remote piloting or autonomy, we heavily invest in extending our expertise in air traffic management. This involves designing rules and regulations for unmanned traffic management, in addition to our existing responsibilities in airspace design for piloted operations. Considering the introduction of new technologies and various unmanned vehicles and delivery systems, it becomes imperative to envision a layered airspace and efficiently manage and control it. This includes optimizing routes, federating flight arrivals and departures at conventional airports and congested airspaces, and coordinating the airspace for drones, eVTOLs, helicopters, and conventional aircraft. Managing and optimizing airspace becomes a crucial focus, requiring significant time and resource investment.”
One of Airbus’ notable achievements in this field is the development and launch of CityAirbus NextGen, a remarkable eVTOL vehicle. This groundbreaking aircraft embodies Airbus's commitment to delivering state-of-the-art, battery-powered, and low carbon urban air mobility solutions. “It was showcased at the Amsterdam Drone Week and launched last year”, said Sahiran. “And it represents our product vision..”
Sahiran actively contributes to the advancement of the industry as a thought leader and advocate for urban air mobility. Her expertise is highly sought after, and she frequently participates in industry conferences, panels, and discussions, sharing insights and inspiring others to join the urban air mobility revolution. And in that role, she notes: “The level of passion, enthusiasm, and excitement within this industry is truly remarkable. It extends not only to those directly involved in aerospace and industry enthusiasts but also to the general public. In fact, it is one of the most closely observed sectors in terms of technological advancements, which is truly fascinating”, Sahiran hastens to say. “However, we must balance this excitement with patience, as progress takes time. While it is true that things are evolving at an accelerated pace due to the immense energy and investment from brilliant minds dedicated to overcoming the associated challenges, we must still approach this revolution in a stepwise and responsible manner. It is crucial to remember that we are dealing with aircraft that carry passengers, and their safety and well-being must always remain our top priority.”