The Amsterdam Drone Week will host the 2019 UIC2 – the UAM (Urban Air Mobility) Initiative Cities Community – Forum for a second consecutive year on the 4th and 5th of December. We asked UIC2 founder and Forum panel moderator Dr. Vassilis Agouridas – who is Airbus Urban Mobility Head of Public Co-Creation & Regulatory Ecosystem Outreach (Airbus Urban Mobility), Leader of the European UAM Initiative (EIP-SCC) and Vice-Chair UAM WG (ASD Europe) – about the Forum and his views on co-creating the third dimension.
"What is the main focus of the 2019 UIC2 Forum during Amsterdam Drone Week?"
Vassilis: "The focus of this second edition of the Forum will be to further connect and engage with the diverse stakeholders within the sustainable mobility landscape, with a special spotlight on urban air mobility (UAM). This year, the Forum will take place over two days, which demonstrates not only the diversity of UAM topics but also the high interest level. The first day will be co-organised by the ADW and the European Commission, and the speaking programme will feature UAM exclusively. The opening panel will involve a group discussion between mayors and representatives from some of the UIC2 participating cities. Other panels throughout the day will focus on urban mobility challenges and opportunities, including mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) and shared mobility. A dedicated panel will focus on the need to take co-creation activities to the next level to ensure responsive policy making, define the role of local authorities (cities and regions) and put in place inherently agile regulatory frameworks that can enable and foster innovative solutions and cope with the pace of evolution. The second day will be an invitation-only workshop for member UIC2 cities and regions."
"What can visitors of the Amsterdam Drone Week expect from the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC) on UAM, an initiative that started two years ago?"
Vassilis: "Our work with the EIP-SCC on UAM is not about developing or demonstrating technology: it’s about giving cities and regions a voice and facilitating new options for sustainable urban mobility. What we do is investigate how the third dimension could be integrated into an urban environment as part of the overall urban mobility ecosystem. This means we – or, in fact, the 42 participating cities – need to address a lot of different topics, which vary from technology and liability, to safety, security and regulatory aspects, just to name a few. The overall approach is that, in several years, when regulations and legislation are in place, cities will be UAM-ready as part of their overall strategy for sustainable urban mobility solutions. These solutions may include cargo drones, first-responder drones, or even urban air passenger-transport solutions, in a variety of shapes and forms. Today, the most active cities and regions are contributing to the ongoing debate on what should be the role of cities and regions with regards to regulatory and wider governance aspects."
"You mentioned that the EIP-SCC UAM Initiative gives participating cities and regions a voice in the UAM discussion. What will be the UAM Initiative’s role in shaping this new type of air traffic and its governance?"
Vassilis: "As the voice of cities and regions, UIC2 provides their perspective in a discussion that is often too technology dominated. Ultimately, the UAM Initiative strongly advocates for the need to co-create and co-shape the livable and sustainable cities of tomorrow that will feature the third dimension of mobility. As I often emphasize, it’s not about what technology can do for us but what we want technology to do for us. For mobility on the ground, we don’t have that many options because much of the infrastructure and many of the systems are already in place. On the other hand, when it comes to urban airspace use, we, as a society, still have a tangible positive impact to make, if we make the appropriate decisions early and collectively."
"During Amsterdam Drone Week, you will host a panel composed of diverse stakeholders, from regulatory actors to representatives from cities and air and ground mobility. Why is it important to drive cooperation and collaboration?"
Vassilis: "Bringing together a diverse stakeholder group to collaborate today on future collaboration set-ups is essential to enable UAM to take shape in a sustainable and socially acceptable manner. EIP-SCC prompts and encourages the collaborative work needed to be carried out by these different stakeholders. We have to remember that UAM is about more than just aviation technology: it’s first and foremost about urban mobility. If we don’t work together and think about all the benefits and consequences, UAM is not going to be able to contribute toward more livable and sustainable urban and regional areas. This is why 42 European cities and regions are involved in the UAM initiative."
"One of the main challenges – from the participating cities’ perspective – is what will be the actual need for drones. What are some of the problems solved when using the third dimension for urban mobility?"
Vassilis: "Drones, which leverage the third dimension of mobility in cities and regions, can provide real societal benefits, such as medical and blood deliveries, and first-response drones/ambulances at scale. They also use emission-free technology, which is better for the planet. So public and, in fact, wider social acceptance shouldn’t be a problem in this respect. But in the case of commercial and cargo drones, social acceptance will be more complex. This is because we will have to answer questions such as: what cargo, from where and to whom? The same questions apply to passenger drones, or air taxis, as well. Who benefits? When is it really necessary? What is the specific mobility challenge tackled when taking a holistic view of sustainable urban mobility?"
"At the same time, cities and regions are very different in terms of their mobility needs. Safety and security issues may also vary from city to city, depending on local specificities. The same goes for the regulatory aspects, but also liability for example. So, from a city perspective, technology is not one of the first challenges. In fact, for cities, safe and secure technology has to be available – indeed, a given – otherwise the discussion can’t begin in the first place".
"You’ve said that UAM at scale will never take off if there isn’t a proper level of what you call “social embracement” (or social desirability and resilience) in the first place. Why do you think this is?"
Vassilis: "Social embracement is a widely defined concept compared to public acceptance. The latter is anchored in the current regulatory and legislative frameworks that ensure safety standards and security levels, and focus on “user” or “customer” adoption. This is where social embracement differs. Social embracement encompasses more than the user or the customer: it includes society at large and the structures dealing with positive and negative externalities of new dimensions of mobility. Ultimately, social embracement implies a social contract that reflects society’s resilience, or its ability to continue using a service, even if things go wrong because of the benefits it reaps. For example, everyone can see the benefits of medical deliveries by drones or future drone ambulances: they can save lives. Even if an accident takes place, people will still want to continue these air operations due to the positive impact it has on us as a society. But in the event of an accident or major failure with, for example, a pizza delivery drone, society’s reaction will not be the same even if regulation, legislation and superior customer experience are well in place. For me, this is the difference between public acceptance and social embracement."