Autonomous urban aircraft may no longer be the stuff of comic books, said Morgan Stanley Research in a new blue paper.
The report notes the ultimate goal of industry leaders today is moving people.
“We’re seeing opportunities for a growing fleet of electric, shared, and autonomous vertical takeoff and landing [VTOL] aircraft or other large terrestrial drones,” said Rajeev Lalwani, Morgan Stanley’s lead analyst covering U.S. Airlines, Aerospace & Defense, and Aircraft Lessors. “The market could likely begin as an ultra-niche add-on to existing transportation infrastructure, similar to how helicopters operate today. They could later transform into a cost-effective, time-efficient method of traveling short to medium distances, eventually taking share from car and airline companies.”
It’s still early days for urban air mobility, but Morgan Stanley Research believes autonomous aircraft could create a $1.5 trillion market by 2040. Battery technology, processing and computing power, and advanced composite systems all overlap with eVTOL aircraft manufacturing. Limitations remain, primarily related to batteries and propulsion technology. As of now, there are few battery-powered drones that can carry much more than 10 pounds. Reducing the cost, decreasing noise and creating aircraft that essentially levitate — not takeoff via a runaway — are also key considerations.
However, the Morgan Stanley team doesn’t believe technology will be an ultimate limiting factor. Instead the regulatory and societal concerns surrounding the technology will need to catch up to the tech itself. As expected, addressing safety will be at the top of regulators’ lists.
To read the blue paper, click here.