Personal Air Vehicles As a New Option for Commuting in Europe: Vision or Illusion?

Personal Air Vehicles As a New Option for Commuting in Europe: Vision or Illusion?


Jens Schippl, Karlsruhe Institute Of Technology, Institute Of Technology Assessment And System Analysis, Michael Decker, Karlsruhe Institute Of Technology, Institute Of Technology Assessment And System Analysis, Torsten Fleischer, Karlsruhe Institute Of T


Based on preliminary findings from the FP7 project “MyCopter”, the paper assesses the presuppositions for and the potential implications of “personal air vehicles” as a future mobility service.


Michael Decker; Torsten Fleischer; Sarah Meyer-Soylu; Jens Schippl,
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Technology Assessment and System Analysis

A broad range of technology trajectories can be observed enabling new mobility options and services in future transport system. Usually, Information and Communication technologies (ICT) are playing a key-role in this context. Well in line with the objectives of sustainable transport there usually is a focus on making transport modes cleaner, reducing mobility needs or enabling a modal shift to more efficient modes of transport. But the future is open and hardly predictable, even if there surely is a potential for governing also complex socio-technical systems such as a transport system in a desired direction.

Nevertheless, it is always possible and should not be ignored that “surprises” emerge on the scene which have not been really anticipated by the majority of experts in the field. Prominent examples can be found in the ICT sector, with the extremely fast diffusion of personal computers and cell phones. To give an example from the transport sector: for long time it has not really been envisioned that the market penetration of e-mobility will make its first success story in the bicycle sector. Foresight or “monitoring” activities are useful approaches to enable an early detection of such developments and to help avoiding surprises

Against this background, this presentation will have a closer look at the potentials of personal air vehicles (PAV) to gain market shares in the transport sector. Visions about PAV can be traced back to the early 20th century. Nowadays, considerable amounts of demonstrators (also known as flying cars or roadable aircraft) are being developed, for some of them commercialization is announced to come soon. These approaches are often neglected in transport related visions and scenarios or simply denounced as being not realistic or outright fantastic. The presentation will discuss whether more attention needs to be put on developments in the PAV sector in the development of transportation scenarios and policies for the coming decades.

The paper to be presented is based on work carried out in context of the FP7 project “MyCopter” ( The central idea of the project is to avoid the typical problems associated with ground-based transportation by using the third dimension, combining the best of ground-based and air-based transportation. The solution pursued in MyCopter is the creation of a personal air transport system (PATS) that can overcome the environmental and financial costs associated with current methods of transport. To enable this PATS Personal Aerial Vehicles (PAVs) are envisioned for traveling between homes and workplaces. They should be flying at low altitude in urban environments. Such PAVs should be fully or partially autonomous without requiring ground-based air traffic control and operate outside controlled airspace. They should be designed in a way that allows for using battery based electric propulsion systems.

The presentation will illustrate how scenarios for a future integration of PAV in the transport system could look like. According to the project specifications, the focus will be on commuting. Using examples from German cities (which are among the most congested cities in Europe and where a financially strong group of potential “early adopters” can be expected) the paper assesses the presuppositions for and implications of a market penetration of PAVs. One scenario to be discussed will be offering air vehicles as a sort of taxi-like service, flying fully autonomous and carrying two people at maximum. But other scenarios will be outlined as well. It will be shown that to certain extent environmental and technical challenges might be solved; but – quite similar to motorized individual transport – a key challenge is related to the limited infrastructure capacities, especially for landing and storing vehicles in central business districts. Furthermore, public acceptance will be a crucial issue. Based on this work, it will be possible to provide a clearer picture on the advantages and disadvantages of PAVs – in particular as regards potential impacts on sustainability.


Association for European Transport