Advanced Air Mobility News

RCA-UMSA Mobility Forum Answers Many AAM Questions

RCA-UMSA Mobility Forum Answers Many AAM Questions

With eVTOLs and drones becoming increasingly more important, the Rotorcraft Asia and Unmanned Systems Asia (RCA-UMSA) event held recently in Singapore had a Mobility Forum dedicated to discussing the future of both.

Organized in partnership with Asian Sky Group, the forum discussed the current state of the AAM and drone markets and looked forward to what we can expect from both in the future.

The forum kicked off with a keynote address from Tan Kah Han, Chief Technology Officer / Senior Director (Unmanned System Group) from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), who explained the city-state’s current views on AAM and Drones, as well as how Singapore will integrate both drones and eVTOLs into Singapore’s current airspace.

With day one largely focussed on advanced air mobility (AAM), forum panelists discussed practical applications as well as regulatory challenges that lie ahead for the sector. During one panel, that specifically looked into how the AAM sector is funded, James WANG, Professor MAE Department, and Director of eVTOL Research & Innovation Centre, Nanyang Technological University argued that it is likely it is likely to take at least 12 years from the initial launch of an eVTOL design for it to be built, certificated, delivery and finally break even.

This timeline was largely echoed by attendees, who were asked by Teo Hui Ling, Partner, Reed Smith, who moderated the panel, to give a show of hands on when they believed that the industry would be able to commercialize itself, with the overwhelming majority voting for 2035 or later.


Later in the afternoon, there were two panels dedicated to helicopters, with one panel, in particular, looking at whether eVTOLs will ever be able to truly replace helicopters. Whilst some of the panelists felt that eVTOLs, and in some cases drones, can replace helicopters on missions including powerline inspections and some emergency medical missions, it is unlikely that they will replace large twin-engine helicopters that operate in the oil & gas sector.

The last session on day one had a look at both sides of the argument, asking if AAM is just another Pie in the Sky Pipedream. It was perhaps no surprise that both panelists were firmly in the AAM camp. Both Augustine Tai, Head of Business Development, APAC, Eve Air Mobility, and Oliver Plogmann, Partner, McKinsey, fought the case for AAM, arguing that not only are we taking the right steps now, but the sector is likely to commercialize itself before the 2035 date that attendees suggested earlier in the day.

Both panelists were also asked if the recent slowdown in investments into the sector was a sign that investors are starting to feel burnt out, especially as several AAM companies have recently said that it will take at least $1 billion to certify their eVTOLs. Whilst acknowledging a slowdown in investments, Augustine pointed out that the investments that have been made recently have been larger, with investors focussing on bigger projects, as well as those that are getting closer to being certificated.

On Day Two the focus switched from AAM and helicopters, and more towards drones, and opened with a keynote address by Maran Paramanathan, Director (Unmanned Systems Policy, Regulations, and Operations), Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS). Following the keynote, a panel on Drone regulation looked into the key issues surrounding certification and legal usage of drones before two further panels about drones closed out the day.

Both of the final two panels were centered on the real-world usage of drones and their applications. The first looked at drones that were being used for surveillance, be it in engineering, the energy sector, or even in border patrol missions.

The final session of the day looked into drones being used in the logistics industry. With Amazon exploring deliveries by drone, the panel discussed the feasibility of delivering to dense urban areas but came to the conclusion that it is likely the drones will be used in some areas of the distribution chain, but it is unlikely that they will make the final delivery. The panel did of course make the distinction between urban and rural deliveries, stating that drones would be perfect for delivering to out-of-the-way locations.


Overall, the forum brought together many different companies from across the spectrum of AAM and drones into one space. The discussions that were had, both on and off the stage raised many questions but also provided many answers to the questions that people already had before the event.