Urban air mobility (UAM), its emerging associated technologies, albeit some of them are not entirely new, and regulatory frameworks, as well as the opportunities they promise to open for various urban stakeholders, can without doubt claim to be innovative. Yet, UAM is not only an element of aviation and mobility technologies advancement but predominantly about mobility planning and urban development.
To this end, UAM may feature prominently in the formation of urban innovation and sustainable transition strategies. A core question, cities and regions face, is: how should UAM be integrated in higher level urban mobility planning? Or, in more practical terms: which role should UAM assume in existing, or envisioned, urban transportation systems?
The above highlight the importance of the readiness of local authorities to take action and responsibility in the field of introducing modern technologies. This also includes, for example, their legislative readiness, their capacity to support the planning, modeling and implementation of UAM services into the sustainable urban development plan (SUMP) process, as well as proactively create and deploy tools for involving citizens in the UAM co-creation process - this is why UIC2 was established in 2017. While its members are only cities or regions, the latter are driving the development of their local ecosystems by engaging and involving a variety of stakeholders from the academic, industrial and institutional/governmental domains.
Main Goal: The mission of UIC2 is to drive the sustainable and responsible transition of urban mobility to the vertical (third) dimension.
The Urban-Air-Mobility Initiative Cities Community (UIC2), of the EU's Smart Cities Marketplace, was established in October 2017. UIC2 is a city-centric (and regions) and citizens’ needs-driven community that brings the voice of European cities and regions in the emerging sector of urban air mobility.
UIC2 fosters collaboration across disciplines and sectors pertinent to UAM with the aim to jointly shape the future of UAM. An overview of the UIC2 approach, activities and achievements can be found in the UIC2 presentation (December 2021) (link to document found in the Documents section)
As urban air mobility is a relatively newly introduced term, there is not a universally agreed and used definition of it. The definitions vary to the perspective of each stakeholder group. For example, EASA defines UAM as “an air transportation system for passengers and cargo in and around urban environments.” The UAM Initiative Cities Community (UIC2) defines UAM as:
‘Very-low altitude airborne traffic, above populated areas, at scale.’
UIC2 develops its work and positions on the acknowledgement that the cities and regions are best placed to define the fundamental characteristics of the UAM services to meet their citizens’ needs. Local authorities can, not only have an influential, or even deciding, role in the development of UAM infrastructure (physical and digital assets for UAM), but also in the co-shaping of UAM-related policy, regulatory and legislative issues; both at the national and European levels. For example, ongoing policy work led by the European Commission deals with the EU’s Smart Mobility Strategy and the recently announced Urban Mobility Framework (UMF) as well as the Drones Strategy 2.0. UIC2 has completed in December 2021 the first Practitioner Briefing on Urban Air Mobility and Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning (SUMP-UAM) published by Eltis, the EU’s mobility observatory.
Among the most significant challenges is integrating the UAM elements, such as vertiports and landing pads, into the city landscape from the point of urban planning as well as the city life is the planning and usage of the low altitude airspace above metropolitan areas. The use and management of urban airspace has been a topic of priority for UIC2 members who presented the UIC2 Manifesto on the Multilevel Governance of the Urban Sky, in December 2020. This manifesto has had an influence on the shaping of Article 18(f) of the (EU) 2021/664 that enables local authorities and entities to actively participate and coordinate their activities with the U-space competent authorities designated by Members States.
The preparation of UAM services requires consideration of many factors ranging from the aviation safety and security of operations to the integration to existing (or future) surface mobility services. To this end, when analysing the UAM environment, the key aspect is, apart from fundamental safety and security issues, to express public and wider societal benefits in various dimensions, such as improving the quality of life, accessibility as well as economic and environmental aspects. A recent EASA study on the social acceptance of UAM, shows that Europeans clearly favour UAM use cases that have a distinct social benefit. This includes any kind of medical and emergency related transportation, including use cases for disaster management. The study also highlights the ten key takeaways on UAM societal acceptance.
Members of UIC2 are participating in EU-funded projects on UAM. UIC2 follows the achievements of EU projects as several cities and regions involved in the UAM Initiative (UIC2) are also members of these projects. That brings not only updated knowledge in topics such as managing the urban airspace in the context of U-space but also topics related to sustainable and integrated mobility as well as studies on societal embracement challenges and practices. In addition, UIC2 is in the Advisory Boards of most of the EU-funded UAM / U-space projects.
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