Interview with Robert Dingemanse, CEO of PAL-V
It will certainly take 10-15 years for the urban air mobility market to get off the ground. That is the opinion of Robert Dingemanse, CEO of PAL-V, the company that expects to hand over the keys of the first flying car to a customer in eighteen months. “95 percent of the examples I know can never meet the rules that EASA sets for passenger transport above the city. Furthermore, a standard certification process in aviation costs 8 to 12 years."
Robert Dingemanse is CEO of PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle), the company that will launch the world's first flying car within two years: the PAL-V Liberty. Although the idea for a flying car was born ten years earlier in the brain of co-founder John Bakker, the company has only been in existence for 11 years. Since 2008, among other things, a prototype has been built, infinitely tested, modified, designed and tested again. Until Dingemanse and his team designed a first model for the consumer market in 2013. After more tests and market research, the PAL-V was shown to the general public in 2018. With the promise that in 2021 the first customer will receive the keys to his flying car.
The most important reason to build a flying car is that with normal flying vehicles - such as a helicopter or an airplane - you always need three different vehicles to get from A to B. Dingemanse: “First you have to go to the airport by car or train. Then you fly a piece and then take a car, train or bus to your actual destination. With a flying car you only need one vehicle. Another advantage is that you are less dependent on the weather. If you can't fly you can always drive. A flying car therefore offers a much more useful flight solution than what we know at the moment. And that in turn means that many people are going to use flying for mobility. "
Although the PAL-V Liberty is not yet coming to the market in a mid-range variant and will therefore remain reserved for wealthy customers, Dingemanse believes that air mobility will certainly take flight in the future. “As long as it concerns manned vehicles, the training of pilots is still a limiting factor. But as soon as these vehicles become autonomous, I expect that it will go fast. The costs will always be higher than for a car. In terms of safety and materials, higher demands are placed on aviation, but I am convinced that aviation will become a much more normal form of mobility. ”
The necessary steps still need to be taken - especially in the Netherlands - according to the PAL-V director. “Compared to other countries, the Netherlands has relatively few fields where you can take off and land. That is why we now work together with the engineers of Antea Group. They investigate the possibilities of significantly increasing the number of places where you can take off in and around cities. A number of cities have already indicated that they will build such fields. The beauty of the PAL-V is that a field in the middle-of-nowhere is already very useful. And then it suddenly becomes very easy because no one is bothered by it in terms of sound and safety. By law, such a field must be 250 meters long, but we can just land on grass and take off. The only thing you need there is a wind vane. After all, we can simply refuel at the roadside pump. You also don't need a hangar ”
Dingemanse and PAL-V distinguish two different markets for flying mobility. “On the one hand, you have the city to city mobility market in which people own their own aircraft and can therefore fly and drive long distances. In this market, a flying car is a much better solution than a device that can only fly. On the other hand, the urban mobility market is developing in which you fly smaller pieces from platform to platform. These are probably not devices that people will own, but rather mobility as a service solutions. A form of public transport actually. In our eyes, those are two completely separate markets that you can hardly compare. "
Dingemanse believes that both markets will eventually become about the same size, but that the first market - city to city mobility - will evolve more quickly. “NASA thinks so too. The market for urban air mobility has much larger barriers such as noise, safety, the lack of platforms and regulations, you name it. While we have made something with PAL-V that can drive and fly within the existing regulations and infrastructure. ”
It is one of the success factors of PAL-V, says Dingemanse: “We have said right from the start that our product had to comply with all existing laws and regulations. Many other parties in the market come up with something new and hope that the regulations will be adjusted accordingly. But then you have to have a very long breath, if you can manage it at all. With the PAL-V we first looked at what requirements a car must meet and which aviation requirements we must meet and then we started. We are now at the end of the certification that we started in 2008. "
Dingemanse therefore does not expect that the urban air mobility market will really get off the ground in less than ten years. “95% of the examples I know do not currently comply with the rules that EASA sets for passenger transport. Certifying a new Airbus helicopter takes 8 to 10 years. While that is an already existing way of flying and for which nothing further needs to be developed. Can you see how long it takes when it comes to a new way of flying, in the most challenging environment; namely above a city, for which there are no infrastructure and regulations, the safety requirements will be maximum and the technology is not yet there. Then you have to think about 15 years, at least."